17 Aug 2008

Rescued climbers did the right thing

9:42 pm on 17 August 2008

A Mt Cook National Park ranger says six Australian climbers did everything right in the wild weather. They were tent-bound for 36 hours in storms.

They were located by a search helicopter at 9.45am on Saturday and taken to Mt Cook village in high spirits.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre says they have all been checked by medical staff and given the all-clear.

National park ranger Richard McNamara says the two women and four men did everything right in the wild weather.

He says the group settled in their tents in a relatively avalanche-safe place when the weather became bad.

He says they had extra food, and shovels to keep the tents clear of falling snow.

However, Arthur McBride of Alpine Guides, which rented climbing equipment to the party, says the Australians were not equipped for the extreme winter conditions.

Telling stories

One of the group, Steven Dolphin, says they told each other stories to keep themselves entertained and he told about his "gross" experiences as a plumber.

He also says that while some of the group were relieved to be in the safety of the village, others were annoyed at having had to be rescued.

The climbers - whose ages range from 27 to 52 - met as a group for the first time last Friday just before they began the trip.

Mr Dolphin says they were only 500m from the final hut when they decided to stop and pitch their tents because the weather had deteriorated.

Fellow climber Melissa Clerke says she was relieved when she saw the helicopter.

"I was just going to cry, it was just this massive relief that came over me."

The Australians called home as soon as they arrived in Mt Cook village with most of the group flying back to Sydney from Christchurch on Sunday.

Their personal emergency beacon was activated at about 10pm on Thursday in the Metelille Glacier area on the western side of the Sealy Range.