A Life Flight crew searching for a tramper trapped in snow on the Tararua Ranges. PHOTOS/FILE

GRACE PRIOR
grace.prior@age.co.nz

Four teenagers were flown out of the Tararua Ranges lasts week, marking the third rescue in a month.

Search and Rescue officers from the Maritime New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ co-ordinated a search on Wednesday night with the assistance of Wairarapa Police and  LandSAR teams for four teenagers lost near Neil Forks Hutt in the Tararua Range.

A Maritime New Zealand spokesperson said the group was located safe and well but not on their intended route.

They were initially assisted to the nearby hut and then flown out to safety when weather conditions improved and reunited with their families.

The Tararua Ranges.

RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer Tracy Brickles said RCCNZ was contacted by the IERCC centre in Texas to advise they had received an SOS distress message from an inReach device located in the area of Neill Creek in the Tararua ranges – approximately 1.5km from the Neill Forks Hut.

Brickles said contact was made with the listed family contact and it was established that the device was with a party of four teenagers, two males and two females, who were on the first day of what was scheduled to be a four-day tramp.

“The teenagers, one aged 17 and three aged 16, were making their way to the Neil Forks Hut and went off track after following the wrong spur towards the hut.”

She said the weather conditions had initially prevented a rescue helicopter flying into the area on Wednesday night.

A LandSAR team from Wairarapa walked part-way to the alert location.

The spokesperson said when the weather cleared sufficiently, a helicopter operator, Amalgamated Helicopters, flew to the distress alert position and located the lost party.

“The LandSAR team was then flown to the nearby Neill Fork Hut and were able to quickly get to the lost trampers and walk them back to the shelter of the hut. Both trampers and LandSAR teams were then flown out to safety.”

The spokesperson said the teenagers had been dropped off by a parent on Wednesday morning at Waiohine Road near Waiohine Gorge Campsite to start their hike.

“They were well equipped but didn’t have a tent, which can be a problem if trampers can’t reach shelter.”

Two trampers became stuck in the Tararua Ranges in September after the weather became severe.

A 35-year-old Kapiti woman was attempting the Jumbo Circuit in the ranges, and bit bad weather in the section between Jumbo and Powell Hut.

A second solo tramper had set off a personal locator beacon that night after also striking bad weather.

At the time he set the beacon off, he was near a high point named McGregor in the Tararuas and was believed to have been doing a one-day trip with his dog from the Holdsworth Road end.

Both trampers had been safely located and rescued.

Brickles said it was important to check the weather forecast before heading to the mountains and to take a tent in case you end up outdoors overnight.

“There have been three incidents in the Tararua ranges in the past month. Our Search and Rescue teams put their own lives at risk to rescue others.

“If you are planning a trip to the Tararua ranges, it is critical that you consider the weather conditions before heading out to avoid having to be rescued and putting helicopter and LandSAR teams in danger,” Brickles said.



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