Solo hiker airlifted from Tararua Ranges after using distress beacon

Nov 25, 2023

Personal locator beacon

Police are applauding the successful use of a distress beacon, which led to the rescue of a hiker in the Tararua Ranges. 

The tramper became lost during a solo hike meant to last several days and was found by an Air Force helicopter near Mt Neil on Friday morning.  

Police said the person had a sleeping bag, beacon and survival equipment which was crucial in getting them through the night.   

The rescue comes one week after a couple were rescued from the area, after bad weather forced them off-track.  

Mountain Safety Council chief executive Mike Daisley said the Tararua Ranges are known for extreme weather conditions. 

“Strong wind and low cloud are frequent factors, which often results in poor visibility and makes the challenging terrain even more difficult to safely navigate,” he said.   

He added choosing the right track, understanding the weather forecast and packing warm and waterproof clothes are important steps of planning.  

“During trip planning, consideration of alternate routes is essential as well as having a backup plan and being prepared to stay longer at safe points such as huts,” Daisley continued.  

Wellington Search and Rescue Squad member Pete Cadle said the most important pre-trip tasks are telling someone your plans before you go, and packing an emergency communications device such as a distress beacon.  

Beacons can be hired from many DoC Visitor Centres or outdoor tramping and hunting stores for as low as $10, and once activated, the beacon alerts New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre.  

“Let someone you trust, like family or friends, know where you are going and when you expect to be back,” he said.  

“You should always take extra gear, so you are prepared for the unexpected, even on a day trip. While the weather may appear fine, it can very quickly turn.” 

Here are five simple rules to keep yourself safe:  

  1. Choose the right trip for you – learn about the route and make sure you have the skills for it. 
  2. Understand the weather – it can change fast. Check the forecast and change your plans if needed. 
  3. Pack warm clothes and extra food – prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.  
  4. Share your plans and take ways to get help – telling a trusted person your trip details and taking a distress beacon can save your life. If you have purchased a beacon, make sure you register it at beacons.org.nz.  
  5. Take care of yourself and each other – eat, drink and rest, stick with your group and make decisions together. 
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