I’ve held off writing about the November 2016 accident in the Tararua, near Alpha Hut, where two people died. There hasn’t seemed to have been much new to write about which I haven’t already covered previously in this forum.
Last week I received a copy of the final Coroner’s report, which has now been released. Flick me an email if you’d like a copy.
There’s not much new in the coroner’s findings that has not already been reported. It makes for some depressing reading. The findings describe that both men were fit, and that one had “significant tramping experience in New Zealand”. Neither had ever visited the Tararua, however, and “experience” is often a subjective metric. It’s not a word that always correlates with ability in all circumstances.
The two men appear to have made plans to attempt what’s commonly known as the Neill-Winchcombe circuit after a work conference in Wellington. The trip was a last minute decision. Clear intentions had seemingly not been left with anyone, except that they intended to stay at a hut, probably Alpha Hut.
There’s a relatively direct route to Alpha Hut from their starting point, but they instead opted to follow a much longer, circular route. Maybe this decision was made if they thought the direct route appeared to short and boring, but exactly why this decision was made is unknown.
Without clear intentions being available, the main sequence of events has been reconstructed from other evidence.
The pair left the Waiohine Gorge carpark, inland from Greytown, in the early morning of Saturday 19th November. From there they tramped west to Cone Saddle, climbed to Cone, then north-west to Neill Saddle and around to Winchcombe. After Winchcombe, the route crosses to the west and eventually meets the more popular Southern Crossing track at the peak of Mt Hector. Hector is a relatively short distance south of Kime Hut, but they instead walked south-west, around the Dress Circle and eventually towards Alpha Hut where they most likely meant to stay the night.
They never reached Alpha Hut.