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Couple get blown off track

A couple had to be rescued after taking a wrong turn on Mount Holdsworth. PHOTO/FILE

George Shiers

A couple was rescued from a ridgeline on Mount Holdsworth on Saturday night, seven hours after getting stuck and calling the police.

Extreme weather conditions and strong winds swept the couple off the path multiple times and hampered their attempt to reroute.

The couple had planned to walk from Holdsworth Rd to Atiwhakatu Hut and on to Jumbo Hut for the night. However, they took a wrong turn and ended up close to the ridgeline.

They decided to stop walking and called the police at 4.15pm.

At 4.45pm, police asked Wairarapa Search and Rescue to send a team to the area above the bush line on the East Holdsworth track.

Sam Milligan from Wairarapa Search and Rescue said a team was sent up and found the couple despite challenging weather conditions.

“They were walking up to Atiwhakatu Hut, but they took a wrong turn, and about an hour later, they realised they went the wrong way.

“They kept getting blown off the track, and our team went up, in atrocious weather apparently, and managed to catch up with them and bring them back down to Powell Hut.

“The walk to Atiwhakatu Hut is flat and follows the river, so why they decided to turn off is anyone’s guess.”

A helicopter was considered, but the high winds meant it could not be deployed.

Wairarapa Acting Sergeant Richard Butler said the couple were found late Saturday night.

“A team of three Land Search and Rescue [LandSAR] members successfully located the pair at around 11pm and managed to get them to Powell Hut, where they spent the night before safely escorting them down to the road on Sunday morning.

“It’s highly likely the couple would have become hypothermic overnight had they not been located by LandSAR staff.”

Butler said the couple were lucky enough to have cell phone coverage and could call for help but encouraged people to invest in a rescue beacon.

“The pair were fortunate to have had cellphone coverage, but people should never rely on cellphones as their means of communication.

“A distress beacon lets you instantly signal for help, and they work almost anywhere in the world. The beacon shows rescuers your approximate location, taking the ‘search’ out of search and rescue.”

The Tararua Ranges were no stranger to search and rescue missions. Tararua Southern Crossing was considered one of New Zealand’s most dangerous walks, with one death per 5.6 search and rescue callouts. The national average was one death in every 105 callouts.

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