Pair poorly equipped, ignored weather advice

Police say carrying an emergency locator beacon was virtually the only correct decision made by two trampers tackling a Fiordland mountain pass in thick snow early yesterday.

The pair - a Japanese man and a South African woman, believed to be in their 20s - ignored two weather warnings before setting off on Thursday to hike over Dore Pass, northwest of Knobs Flat, to the Milford Track.

They were rescued by helicopter early yesterday morning after becoming snowbound and activating an emergency locator beacon, a Te Anau police spokeswoman said.

The inexperienced pair were poorly equipped, with only light clothing and no compass, and had been told by locals and Department of Conservation staff not to attempt the tramp because of the approaching front, the spokeswoman said.

"There's quite a lot of angry locals around because they ignored it [the warnings]," she said.

"It was snowing pretty thickly when the guys got up there."

The pair told their rescuers they had aimed to reach Clinton hut, on the Milford Track, by Thursday night, but became bogged down in heavy snowfalls settling halfway up their calves, she said.

They activated their emergency locator beacon early yesterday.

It was detected by the National Rescue Co-ordination Centre (NRCC) in Wellington about 6.30am, she said.

Police from Te Anau were among the rescuers to fly by helicopter to collect the pair, who were spoken to after being taken to the Te Anau Medical Centre for checks, she said.

About the only thing the pair had done right was taking the beacon with them - although they only decided to do so after being talked into carrying one by a friend, the spokeswoman said.

Their intention sheet, submitted to Doc, indicated they did not have one.

Also, they had stayed in the area after activating the beacon and waited for rescue, rather than "wandering off", she said.


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