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Fears for missing tramper

A New Zealand Air Force crew heads into the Tararua Ranges in an NH90 helicopter on Monday night. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

Weather predicted to deteriorate

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The search for a tramper in the Tararua Ranges, believed missing since Sunday, resumed on Monday morning with search and rescue volunteers staying in place overnight and new crews being helicoptered in yesterday.

The Wellington-based British man was walking the Northern Crossing, setting out from the Levin side on Tuesday, and had been expected to finish around noon on Saturday.

When he failed to arrive at Mt Holdsworth near Masterton his partner raised the alarm, prompting a search and rescue operation on Sunday.

The tramper signed a logbook at Arete Hut, at around the mid-point of the tramp, but no other log books had been signed in other huts.

There has been no contact since Thursday morning, when he texted his partner.

The Department of Conservation website describes the Northern Crossing as typically taking from three to five days to complete and recommends it be attempted by experienced trampers only.

Police and Search and Rescue teams completed a search of huts in the area on Sunday, with 50 people on the ground searching on Monday.

An aerial search also took place on Monday, with Amalgamated Helicopters and an air force helicopter used to transport searchers to areas of interest.

Police search and rescue controller Sergeant Tony Matheson said there was no update on Monday evening and it remained a large search area.

He said a dog team had been sent in after footprints had been found in the snow but there had been no further clues since then.

Snow had not fallen when the man set out on the tramp, raising doubts about whether they were his.

Matheson described the tramper as “moderately experienced”.

He is believed to be carrying a tent and all-seasons sleeping bag with him, which if he had hunkered down would have made for “an uncomfortable few nights” but an adequate shelter.

He was not carrying a personal locator beacon and only had a cell phone for communication.

Thermal imaging technology was not available in the district over the weekend, but attempts would be made to access it.

Matheson said New Zealand weather could be unpredictable.

“We are now into winter and people are going into the forest parks. Misadventures can happen to anyone at any time.”

He remained hopeful, though further searches would be weather dependent.

“Conditions since Thursday have been particularly hazardous.

“It will depend on flying conditions.”

Weather conditions were forecast to deteriorate yesterday, with winds increasing and rain showers, MetService said.

Worse is to come today with rain becoming heavy and snow possible down to 800 metres tonight.


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