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Sand Dunes not necessarily the best training for aspiring Alpinists?


by Unknown

December 25, 2003

WELLINGTON (New Zealand) - Nine Indonesian climbers plucked this week from the slopes of New Zealand's highest mountain by a police helicopter complained that they had not wanted to be rescued, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The university group of climbers, aged 21 to 25, had trained for their climb on sand dunes in Indonesia.

On Monday, they were retrieved from the 3.754km high South Island mountain after taking four days to complete a traverse that typically takes a few hours.

Speaking on behalf of her fellow climbers, Ms Yuli Anti told Wellington's Dominion-Post newspaper that the Indonesian group, which will pay NZ$2,800 (S$3,100) towards the cost of their rescue, should have been allowed to continue.

'We are very disappointed. Nothing happened to us,' Ms Yuli was quoted as saying in the report.

Police ordered the group removed from the mountain after they failed to reach a way station on the mountain called Haast Hut.

A police spokesman said the group did not have climbing experience on the deadly snow and ice that covers Mount Cook's rugged slopes.

Ms Yuli said the group had the proper equipment and had practised climbing on a 'sand mountain' in Indonesia. She admitted they had no 'ice-mountain' experience.

Legally, people cannot be stopped from entering New Zealand conservation areas, even if they put themselves in danger.

Conditions on Mount Cook have been described as the most dangerous in years, with guides reporting regular rock and ice falls.

Inexperienced climbers taken off Mount Cook

An Indonesian climbing group were rescued from Mt Cook National Park yesterday after being advised not to attempt a climb because of their lack of experience.

All nine in the group were airlifted to Mt Cook Village after being persuaded not to continue with plans to climb on Aoraki-Mt Cook.

People cannot legally be prevented from entering national parks or conservation areas in New Zealand, no matter whether they are putting themselves in danger, said the area commander of Mid-South Canterbury police, Inspector David Gaskin.

He was relieved that the nine climbers had been safely taken off the mountain.

In 1983, the Prime Minister at the time, Sir Robert Muldoon, ordered a party of deaf and mute Japanese climbers to be taken off the mountain, but Mr Gaskin said that under the law people could be removed only if they volunteered to go.

He said the actions of the Indonesian climbers could be described only as foolish.

They were airlifted back to Mt Cook Village from Haast Hut after they were persuaded to abandon a proposed climb on Aoraki-Mt Cook.

Mr Gaskin said the party began their climb last Monday and were expected to reach the hut by the next afternoon. They finally reached it late on Saturday afternoon as a search was beginning.

"We were just about to go looking for them when they turned up. There were already concerns as to their competence.

"They had been seen by DoC [Department of Conservation] and police and there were concerns that they were not properly prepared."

The Indonesian Embassy had agreed to pick up the costs of bringing the group off the mountain.

Mr Gaskin said the group were questioned as to whether their level of ability was sufficient to complete a successful climb of the mountain and alternatives were put forward.

"The group, who are members of an expedition sponsored by an Indonesian university, have been training for a year but none of the climbers have had previous experience of climbing on snow and ice.

"Liaison between the police and members of the Indonesian Embassy has facilitated a safe resolution to this incident and I thank them for the work they have undertaken."

Efforts to move the climbers out of the area by helicopter yesterday were prevented by high winds.

"It is extremely disappointing that the party did not heed advice given. It was only luck that none of the climbers had come to any harm.

"What is more of a concern is the danger that is caused to rescue teams having to rescue people who have come to grief through over-estimating their ability."

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