Injured climbers have lucky escape after fall in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

07 January 2021

Maritime NZ’s Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ)* has coordinated the rescue of three climbers - two with minor injuries - who fell onto rocks near Stewart’s Glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

Search and Rescue Officer Samantha Mildon said the group activated their personal locator beacon (PLB) at about 9.15am on Wednesday morning, due to injuries received from a fall of 10 to 15 metres on to rocks on Tuesday afternoon. The tricky rescue was completed at about 3pm yesterday when the three climbers, were taken by helicopter to Mount Cook village for treatment which included minor hypothermia.

After receiving the beacon alert on Wednesday morning, RCCNZ tasked a Helicopter Line helicopter to fly from Mount Cook with a Department of Conservation Aoraki/Mt Cook alpine cliff rescue team on board. After some initial difficulty pinpointing the exact location of the group due to the heavy cloud cover, they were eventually located near Stewart’s Glacier in the Fitzgerald Pass in the Aroarokaehe range, which is at an altitude of 2300m, 8km north of Mt Cook village.

Due to the nature of the terrain, the helicopter could not use its long line to pull the group to safety, so the alpine cliff rescue team were dropped off at Copland’s shelter, and walked in to retrieve the group on foot. After the group were lowered to a safer position, the helicopter was then able to pull the group to safety and they were taken to Mt Cook village. One of the party, who had a laceration to the leg, was taken by ambulance to Twizel for medical assistance. Another member of the group had mild hypothermia but did not require further medical attention.

Mildon says they made the right call to activate their beacon when they did.

“The weather was marginal and seemed to be deteriorating. If they had waited much longer the weather would have closed in on them and it could have been a very different story.

“RCCNZ would like to thank the all those involved in the rescue, they carried out an incredible job in some particularly challenging weather and conditions.”

It is understood the group were three men in their 50s, who were undertaking a multi-day trip. They were experienced climbers and well-equipped for the terrain.

*RCCNZ is responsible for coordinating:

  • land-based missions arising from someone activating a distress beacon; and
  • all major maritime and aviation search and rescue missions within New Zealand’s 30 million square kilometre search and rescue region.
a helicopter landed on the valley floor between some moantains
Photo credit: Jonathan Gillan of Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine rescue team
The rescue team at Hooker Valley Moraine.
a helicopter hovering above a valley floor while winching up a rescued climber
Photo credit: Jonathan Gillan of Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine rescue team
A member of the rescue team and one of the climbers on the long line.
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