Three young men took a wrong turn at the Red Crater Summit and wound up heading along a ridge to Mt Tongariro’s summit in 70km/h winds, with icy rain falling, snow underfoot and visibility at just 10 metres. Meanwhile, the main group carried on and the leader did not realise until they got to the Ketetahi Shelter, that three of her group were missing.
On the ridge, one of the students turned back, leaving the other two still ascending the mountain. Some time afterwards, the cold and wet pair realised they were lost and running out of strength, with hypothermia beginning to set in.
[Professional guide Terry] Blumhardt dug a trench in the ice and put up an emergency shelter and the trio force-fed the hypothermic young men with sugary food, electrolytes and hot drinks and wrapped them in foil blankets in an attempt to revive them.
Once they had warmed up a little and after two RARO rescuers had arrived, the group attempted to get the stricken students off the mountain.
The visibility made a helicopter rescue impossible and so the rescuers had to half walk, half drag the young men down to Central Crater to get them out of the wind, then walked them further down the mountain to below the cloud cover…
[Former police senior constable Cliff] Jones estimated the temperature on the ridge was well below zero. He said if help had not arrived, they would have died and it was touch and go whether they could even get the young men walking again and off the mountain before dark.
“This is one of the closest I have seen for a long time.
“These people haven’t got the relevant experience or possibly the relevant training to be carrying out what they’re doing.
“Somebody needs to be taken to account. They bloody near caused the death of two boys there yesterday.”
This incident has also been covered by Stuff. Unfortunately with the educational institute (Te Wananga o Aotearoa) not saying much except that they’re running an investigation, media coverage seems to have been relatively minimal.
Nobody died, thankfully, and thus the coroner’s not involved, so there’s no guarantee that results from that investigation will ever be released in a public way. There’s also no guarantee that it’ll even be an appropriately run investigation for adequately assessing what happened and what needs addressing. Hopefully we’ll see the institution pressed for answers in due course.