22 Dec 2014

Big rescue job for small injury

3:50 pm on 22 December 2014

Police are slamming the actions of a pair of unprepared Auckland men who sparked an expensive rescue operation over a minor injury.

The men, aged 25 and 33, were walking the Cape Brett track in the Far North on Saturday trying to make it to a Department of Conservation hut.

They left at 1pm thinking the walk would take two hours but eight hours later they raised an alarm saying one of them had a knee injury and could not continue.

The region's rescue helicopter was called but was unable operate because of low cloud.

Police search and rescue staff were then met at Waitangi by the Coastguard and taken to the area, where they scaled onto rocks in the dark.

Rescuers found the injured man at 1.30am today, declared his injury minor, and walked him to the hut.

Police say the men were totally unprepared, had disregarded warnings of heavy rain and strong winds, were unfit and had no tramping experience.

$10,000 rescue

They say the rescue helicopter mission cost up to $10,000 of public money and the pair was not in real danger.

Search and Rescue officer Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said the men should never have tried such a trek.

"When they were located they were exposed on a ridge out in the open in rain and wind huddling under a very wet sleeping bag.

"Their food consisted of 10 packets of two-minute noodles and they had less than two litres of water each."

He said the men were not carrying wet weather clothing despite the wild forecasts and had only one sleeping bag between them.

As well, they never checked the walk, the time their trek would take, the terrain they would encounter and didn't look at signs along the way.

"The knee injury was minor and the person was able to walk out to the hut under his own steam in the end," he said.

The pair was with a third man who was also from Auckland but he left them and made his own way to the hut, which the police said was "frustrating".

Mr Metcalfe said the man had taken the group's only torch.

"Search and Rescue and Coastguard personnel also put themselves at risk that night to attend this incident," Mr Metcalfe said.

Whangarei Tramping Club treasurer Kareen Hansard said the track was one of the most difficult in the country and was not for the inexperienced.

"You need to be of reasonable fitness at the minimum I'd say, it's six hours to get out there and it's up and down - there's no flat bits."

The track was exposed and not one someone would want to be stuck on, she said.

The Department of Conservation lists Cape Brett as being an eight-hour trek with many bluffs and steep cliffs.

It states the track can be quite tiring and it is the equivalent of about 26,666 steps and people using it should have a high degree of fitness and experience.