Rescue training draws onlookers

Specialist rescuers are lifted by helicopter on to a Queenstown cliff face as part of a training simulation on Saturday. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Specialist rescuers are lifted by helicopter on to a Queenstown cliff face as part of a training simulation on Saturday. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Suspended in mid-air, pairs of specialist rescuers were lifted by helicopter on to a cliff face of Queenstown Hill as part of a training exercise on Saturday.

The alpine cliff rescue simulation drew crowds of intrigued onlookers to the base of the cliff face, near the Matakauri Wetland in Gorge Rd.

Tarn Pilkington, a Queenstown team leader of the Wakatipu LandSAR alpine cliff rescue team, said the training was undertaken three or four times a year. The purpose of Saturday's exercise was for the Queenstown and Wanaka teams to standardise procedures.

Rescuers were flown on to the rock face to perform a strop rescue, which involves a rescuer being attached to a helicopter with a rope and being dropped on a site, which was often steep and difficult terrain.

The rescuers then descended the cliff face using ropes.

The helicopter strop rescue was used by Mt Cook, Queenstown and Wanaka alpine rescue and also internationally.

The Wakatipu LandSAR alpine and cliff rescue group has around 30 volunteers with the necessary skills to carry out rescues on mountain tops and cliffs, in gorges and other otherwise inaccessible locations.

The group is trained in various other rescue techniques.