Solo Climber Rescued from Boys Glacier Mountain Top

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A solo climber was successfully rescued from Boys Glacier in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park this Friday 14th June. The joint operation showcased effective search and rescue coordination between specialist teams.

The Maritime New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre initiated the rescue after receiving an alert from a personal locator beacon around 5:45 PM Thursday. The climber, a man in his early 30s, had also informed Police via a 111 call that he had been injured in a fall and needed help.

Maritime NZ Search and Rescue Officers promptly contacted the Department of Conservation (DOC) Aoraki/Mount Cook Search and Rescue Team to launch a rescue operation.

Keith Allen, a Maritime NZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer, explained that due to poor weather and nightfall, the rescue team could not dispatch a helicopter until morning. The climber, though cold and wet, managed to shelter in a sleeping bag overnight.

Helicopter vision during the rescue operation. Source: supplied.

“Maritime New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre called the DOC SAR Team for their local knowledge and expertise,” Mr. Allen said. “They were concerned for the climber’s welfare in the cold overnight, with hypothermia and frostbite being real risks, but determined a helicopter operation could not be launched until morning.

“Working with the DOC specialist alpine rescue team and The Helicopter Line, we coordinated the team to the climber’s location Friday morning. Low cloud at about 6000 feet altitude complicated the operation.

“The climber’s shelter had been compromised during the night and he and all his belongings were completely saturated. However, the team successfully rescued him when weather permitted on Friday morning.

“We had a HeliOtago air ambulance on standby, but it was not needed as the climber was rewarmed and assessed by the search and rescue team and had no significant injuries.

“This operation is a great example of how Maritime NZ Rescue Coordination Centre works with specialist teams, like the DOC Aoraki/Mount Cook SAR Team, HeliOtago, and Helicopter Line to save lives.”

Mr. Allen noted that the helicopter with the DOC SAR team reached the climber at 8:46 AM.

Scotty Barrier, DOC Search and Rescue Project Lead, described how the helicopter managed to nose into the steep terrain, allowing rescuers to jump out, rope together, and traverse to the climber to extract him from a potentially dangerous location in an avalanche path.

“The climber did the right thing by using the DOC intentions system at the visitor centre, which meant staff had a good idea of his itinerary. He was also carrying a personal locator beacon, vital equipment for those heading into the mountains.

“This incident reminds people venturing into the mountains in winter that the environment and weather need the utmost respect. It’s important to carry a weatherproof shelter for emergencies.”

Maritime NZ Rescue Coordination Centre added that anyone with a personal locator beacon should register it so search and rescue officers can contact them or their next of kin if it sends emergency signals.

For information on how to register a PLB, visit the Beacons website.

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