Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Another stupid loss

Winter tramping can be fantastic. I would imagine that winter tramping in Fiordland would be epic.

But for a group of trampers on the Milford Track this week, its turned deadly.

At the end of April, the track switches to "winter" mode. The guided walk huts are locked, the gas is turned off at the public huts, and work is started on removing several key bridges that are on avalanche paths - cheaper to chopper them in and out each season than to rebuild them every year.

One of these bridges is over the Pampolona River. Its a known flood path in heavy rain.

On the DoC website, there is a LOT of information about winter tramping in Fiordland, and especially on the Milford Track. Including this:
Many of the bridges are removed over winter to avoid damage from avalanches.
You must be competent at crossing large, swift, icy rivers.
The track over Mackinnon Pass is not marked and is often covered in deep snow.
You need to have navigation and alpine skills to traverse this section of track.
(emphasis mine)

So, I'm curious as to where this group of trampers were getting their information from about the track.  Given it sounds like they only met at the start of the track, and made poor decisions as a group, I almost wonder if all their information was from a Lonely Planet guide book.

From quotes given by a survivor, the group reached the river late in the afternoon, after a few hours hike, discovered it was high and decided against turning back because it would involve walking in the dark. A classic case of bad decision making it seems. This is why people die in rivers - because they decide to risk it. And its so horrific for the girls family, and her two tramping companions.

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