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Rescued trampers 'could have backed out'

Published: 11:53AM Monday April 30, 2012 Source: ONE News

  • Mt Ruapehu (Source: ONE News)
    Mt Ruapehu - Source: ONE News

A shuttle service company is defending itself after it dropped off a group of inexperienced trampers at the Tongariro crossing who later had to be rescued.

The group of 16 walkers had to be rescued on Saturday after they were told by the Mountain Shuttles company that the poor weather conditions would improve by the time they had reached the summit.

Several were in the early stages of hypothermia.

Mountain Shuttle Manager Kevin Gardiner said the group was told to wear warm clothes.

He said his company always gives hikers the option to back out and that they could have called and been picked up at any time.

The group were left at the Mangatepopo car park in freezing temperatures, high winds, rain and poor visibility with the intention of walking 19 kilometres to their waiting cars at Ketetahi.

However, by the time they reached the summit they were soaked to the skin and many were in the early stage of hypothermia.

Police said some were dressed in shorts and jeans and none had any alpine clothing.

Two other trampers came to the aid of the stricken group, providing them with warm clothing before leading the group down to a South Crater were rescuers were waiting.

They were met by two search and rescue teams from the Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation who then assisted the group to the Mangatepopo car park where three ambulances were waiting.

Two women from the group were transported to Taupo Hospital for further treatment.

The rescue came on a day when many other transport operators in the central plateau had refused to transport trampers to the start of the crossing because of hazardous conditions.

Inspector Steve Mastrovich said police are "disappointed" all the companies did not take a similar approach.

He said encouraging ill-prepared and under-equipped people to go into an alpine environment is irresponsible and contrary to the practices of local tourism operators.

Police have praised the quick-thinking of the two trampers who assisted the group to waiting rescuers.

* Police initially said the company involved was Tongariro Alpine Shuttles. This was incorrect information. Tongariro Alpine Shuttles had declined to transport the group.

- With Newstalk ZB