There are plenty of other much safer walking tracks available. TRM inmates favourite is the Tongariro River Trail or Taranaki Falls circuit from the Chateau or Lake Rotopounamu – images from TRM library – the combination of a river walk (1-2 hours) with views over Lake Taupo and the Tongariro River, a circuit of a hidden lake (2 hours) and an alpine walk to a spectacular waterfall (2 hours) offers far better variety and choices than the 6-7 hour Tongariro Alpine Crossing for most tourists. Unfortunately most of the tourist agencies don’t know about them or never recommend them as alternative options.
In Summer TRM only recommend the Crossing on week days when there is minimal crowding – see images of weekend traffic below.
Police initially received a call from two of the trampers at 8:40pm last night who were walking in the cold, snowy conditions. For reasons unknown at this time, they had separated from the other two trampers who had gone to Oturere hut.
Police located the two trampers using the new 111 location system, which uses GPS services and cell tower information to locate a caller.
The inexperienced trampers reported feeling cold and tired, and all their clothing was wet.
A rescue helicopter was dispatched.
Unfortunately conditions were too cloudy for the helicopter to land and a Search and Rescue team were sent in near Ketetahi hut.
During the two and a half hours, the other two remaining trampers who had already arrived at hut made contact by text.
Just before midnight all trampers reunited after those in the hut went back out to find their friends.
The SAR team arrived at the hut at 2:45am to find one of the trampers hypothermic. The rescuers stayed at the hut overnight with the four friends.
A short time ago, a helicopter was dispatched to pick all SAR volunteers and the trampers up.
The rescue is ongoing at this point but further information will be released later today.
Images below to discourage you – to illustrate the congestion at the start of the Tongariro Crossing during a busy summer weekend. The parking hassles at the finish are far worse…