2 Aug 2018

Rescuers hold grave concerns for missing Australian climber

10:40 am on 2 August 2018

From the Otago Daily Times

Rescuers are waiting on the weather to clear as they try to find an Australian climber missing on Mt Aspiring.

Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring National Park. Photo: 123rf.com

There are grave concerns over the man's condition, but rescuers were encouraged by movement of his emergency beacon yesterday afternoon.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Officer Geoff Lunt said this morning an attempt was made last night to reach the last known position of the climber and drop off two Alpine Cliff Rescue crew. Unfortunately the helicopter had to turn back due to low cloud in the area.

A Southern Lakes rescue helicopter equipped with night vision flew with a paramedic and two rescue crew but after making three attempts had to turn back after an hour.

"As well as the poor weather conditions, there is a high risk of avalanches that is hampering the search assets from reaching the climber's position," Mr Lunt said.

Two rescue crew members are maintaining a weather watch from the French Ridge hut and will call for a helicopter through the Wanaka SAR base if the cloud lifts.

A Rescue Centre spokeswoman yesterday said the helicopter crew were based close to Aspiring Hut and remained on stand-by in case there was a break in the weather that would allow them to drop a bag containing clothing, equipment and food to the climber.

The climber's beacon was seen to move a short distance to the northeast about 2.30pm yesterday, and rescuers said it was ''a good sign''.

However, they were still very concerned for the man, in his late 20s, because he was lightly equipped.

Members of the alpine cliff rescue team found most of the man's equipment at French Ridge hut.

A spokesman believed the man had equipped himself lightly for a fast climb and return, which was ''common practice''.

''While he was well equipped for the trip, he was climbing lightly equipped and most of his gear - his heavier cold weather gear, sleeping bag, food and the like - are at the hut and not with him.''

The man set off his beacon at the edge of the Bonar Glacier at 12.15pm on Tuesday.

The forecast for today is heavy rain, some thunderstorms, northerly winds of 50-60 km an hour and the temperature at 1800m is between -2C and 0C.

This article was first published on the Otago Daily Times.