Can we save them from themselves?

20/08/2008

Search and Rescue  are not impressed with inexperienced and ill-prepared tourists.

Land search and rescue spokesman Phil Melchior, of Wanaka, said inexperienced alpine tourists were an ongoing problem and accounted for 30 percent of back country fatalities.

“People come to New Zealand and don’t understand just how fast the weather can change,” he said.

The six Australian tourists were caught out in heavy snow, a week after venturing into the mountains. They had no guide, avalanche beacons or probes, snow shoes or skis and only one shovel between them.

“There are extremely lucky to be alive in the circumstances, the chances of the rescue party finding six corpses were at least as high as finding six live people.” Mountain Safety Council avalanche programme manager Steve Schreiber said the tourists were foolish and needlessly endangered the lives of their rescuers.

“The weather we’ve had is just diabolical,” he said. “They were asking for trouble.” Mountaineers needed to take more responsibility for their own safety instead of expecting to be bailed out, he said.

The trouble is people don’t know what they don’t know and those who are experienced trampers or climbers in their own countries may not understand the differences between our conditions and climate and those they are used to.

We did a day walk in the mountains on the Liechtenstein – Austrian border, prepared as we’d need to be at home with food and water in our day packs. About three hours in to the trek we came across a cafe in the middle of nowhere. We remarked then that if this is what Europeans are used to it’s no wonder they get in to trouble when they come to New Zealand.

A friend backed this up with his story about coming across a group of English trampers on the third day of a five day tramp on Stewart Island. They were almost out of food becasue they’d taken only enough for a couple of days thinking they’d be able to buy more en route.

But how do you protect people from their own ignroance?  The Press has some suggestions: Read the rest of this entry »


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