Night-time rescue recognised with award

Celebrating the successful mission at the Mount Cook rescue base helipad are (from left) former...
Celebrating the successful mission at the Mount Cook rescue base helipad are (from left) former Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter pilot Jason Laing, alpine rescue team members Jim Young, Mark Evans and Jonathan Gillan, and paramedic Jodie Burton.PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Three members of Queenstown’s helicopter rescue service have been recognised for their role in a high-stakes rescue of two trapped climbers near Mount Cook.

Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter paramedics Jodie Burton and Pierre Macalincag, and former pilot Jason Laing, were part of a wider group awarded a Certificate of Achievement at the New Zealand Search and Rescue Awards in Wellington last night.

Along with members of the Department of Conservation’s Mount Cook alpine rescue team and Maritime New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre, the trio were part of a night-time mission to rescue two climbers on January 10 last year.

Alpine rescue team members return to the Copland Shelter at dawn. Photo: Supplied
Alpine rescue team members return to the Copland Shelter at dawn. Photo: Supplied
Unprepared for a night in the open, the climbers set off their beacon at 11pm while stuck on a ledge at 2060m between Fitzgerald Pass and Copland Pass.

The helicopter crew located the pair with night vision goggles within two hours, but severe turbulence made a winch rescue impossible.

After dropping off members of the alpine rescue team on the ledge, the helicopter flew to the Mount Cook rescue base to pick up more alpine rescue team members and took them to the Copland Shelter.

From there, the alpine rescue team climbed across 30 to 40-degree snow slopes, setting up anchors and fixed ropes as they went.

After they reached the two climbers, who had mild hypothermia, they were put in harnesses and guided down along the fixed ropes to the Copland Shelter, where the helicopter retrieved them about 6am.

One of the climbers was taken to hospital for treatment, but made a full recovery.

Ms Burton told the Otago Daily Times the elements of high altitude, darkness and pressure caused by an incoming storm made it one of the most difficult missions she had been involved in.

The alpine rescue team members made a "perilously steep" climb in darkness to reach the two climbers, Ms Burton said.

Their skill, along with Mr Laing’s flying abilities, "definitely saved these two climbers’ lives".

guy.williams@odt.co.nz

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter