Here’s a story with a happy ending. An Australian soldier, who is also a mountaineer, was climbing alone last weekend in Mt Aspiring National Park. He left his sleeping bag and food in a mountain hut while climbing on Sunday because he expected to be back at the hut in the evening. However, he was stuck on the mountain in freezing temperatures, with strong winds and heavy snow falling.
He was expected back in Wanaka Monday midday but did not arrive. On Tuesday at midday, search and rescue got news that he had activated a locator beacon. It was an old beacon which he had borrowed from a friend and the signal went first to Texas in the United States so it was another day before anyone knew where he was. Also, unlike modern locator beacons, it did not give an exact location but about 2km away. However, a helicopter with a four-person rescue team set out to find him. Because of the loud cloud, and strong winds, it was unable to land or to drop a rescuer until Thursday evening, in spite of several attempts. A brief opening in the clouds last night around 5pm allowed the helicopter to land the rescue team. The climber waved to the helicopter and the team skied to him, pulling a sled behind them. They had tents, food, fuel for cooking, warm clothing and were able to help him to recover. He was cold, tired and dehydrated. His hands were slightly frost- bitten.
Today a helicopter was able to land and take him to Dunedin hospital.
His survival was probably due to the skills he had learnt as a soldier. He dug himself a small cave in the snow out of the wind.
Mt Aspiring National Park can be very dangerous. In the last 10 years, 30 people have died in and around the National Park.
• locator beacon (n) – sends a signal to show the position of the person who used the beacon
• activate (v) – to make it work, to send a signal
• dehydrated (adj) – needed water to drink
• frost bite (n), frost-bitten (adj) – very cold temperatures can kill tissues of the body like fingers, toes and face