Long climb ends in rescue

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 09:14 11/03/2014

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A tired and injured man was helicoptered off Mt Taranaki early this morning after falling down a cliff in the dark.

The Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter winched the man from the Manganui Ski Field on a stretcher about 2am.

Police search and rescue co-ordinator senior constable Vaughan Smith said the man was part of a group of three South Taranaki residents who had set off to climb to the summit of the mountain on Taranaki Anniversary day.

The group had left from the Stratford side of the mountain roughly between 4am and 6am yesterday morning and had not completed the climb, which usually takes up to 10 hours, by yesterday night, he said.

"They've taken a long long time. It got dark and they were still going down about 9:30pm so they decided to give police a call for assistance."

Mr Smith said the man who was airlifted off the mountain had over-exerted himself and hurt his back during the climb and then injured his tailbone when he fell down a 2-3 metre cliff while climbing in the dark.

He was unable to walk and was treated at the scene by police SAR and a St John medic before the rescue helicopter took him to Taranaki Base Hospital.

The other two in his group, a man and a woman, walked off the mountain.

The group had been adequately prepared to climb to the summit and good weather conditions during the day continued into the night, Mr Smith said.

"It was a beautiful night to be stuck up there. It was cold but not freezing and it was clear and still. There wasn't the wind chill factor to worry about."

He did not believe the group had much mountain-climbing experience.

"People don't realise; it's not a big mountain but it is a steep mountain and it's easy to over-exert yourself."

Three SAR members were sent on foot to locate the group who were initially thought to be in Hongi's Valley above the Tahurangi Lodge.

Mr Smith said it was a good reminder for people climbing the mountain to be prepared for anything and take plenty of supplies.

"It's a beautiful day again so take some extra food and clothing and water and make sure you tell someone where you're going." 

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