The home of our longest glacier (the Tasman at 27km long), our highest mountain (Aoraki/Mt Cook, 3754m), and 19 other peaks over 3000 meters, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park is an internationally renowned area for mountaineering. It is possible for climbers of any skill level, beginner to experienced, to get out and enjoy.
From November to March, the park becomes a haven for trampers and mountaineers from NZ and, increasingly, from overseas. This summer season, for the first time since the same period in 1992/1993, there was not a single fatality in the park. In the 17 years in between, 60 people have tragically lost their lives while exploring the mountains and valleys of our great alpine park.
Things can and do go wrong in the outdoors, and this can be due to a number of factors: sudden weather change, poor decision making, incorrect gear, or just a freak accident. Some of these things you can control, others are unpredictable. For those unpredictable times, a personal locator beacon (PLB) or a satellite phone may be the difference between being found or not, if you do find yourself in trouble.
Community Relations ranger Ray Bellringer said that from the Aoraki Area Office’s Search and Rescue (SAR) perspective, having a fatality free season is an excellent outcome. This kind of work is intense and incredibly draining on all Aoraki staff, from those who work in the Visitor Centre and are the initial contact with climbers, to those on the rescue team who recover injured and deceased climbers from very precarious situations.
So well done to all those staff who directly or indirectly have had contact with the 230,000 odd people who stop by the Visitor Centre every year, for doing as much as they can to keep visitors safe. And also to those climbers, trampers and all the other recreationists who have practised safe and intelligent outdoor adventuring this summer season.