Focus on improving tramper safety for Angelus Hut
https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/452775/focus-on-improving-tramper-safety-for-angelus-hut-a-hotspot-for-accidents >Fatalities and a high rate of search and rescue incidents near one of the most popular huts in the Nelson Lakes has led to several agencies proposing solutions to improve tramper safety. >Angelus Hut sits beside an alpine tarn at 1650 metres above sea level on the Travers Range in the Nelson Lakes National Park. >It has become increasingly popular among locals and tourists and sees around 5000 overnight visitors each year, having featured in Lonely Planet's guide to New Zealand. >The Mountain Safety Council recently released its report into the Angelus Hut tracks and routes in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and the police. >Mountain Safety Council chief executive Mike Daisley said Angelus Hut was a popular destination with a much higher rate of trampers needing search and rescue assistance than in other parts of the country. >"It's a beautiful environment that's very accessible and draws in big crowds, but weather is a factor and it changes very quickly and the insights we were seeing at particular times of the year, for particular audiences is that there were a lot of incidents happening." >The 28-bunk hut can be accessed in several ways, the most popular being the Pinchgut Track to Robert Ridge. Trampers can also reach the hut via the Speargrass Track or the Cascade Track which climbs steeply from the Travers Valley. >In the nine years between 2010 and 2019, there were 51 people involved in search and rescue callouts and two fatalities. The majority of incidents happened on the Robert Ridge. >In the winter of 2018, Malaysian man Chien Han Chee, 25, died while walking the Robert Ridge route to the hut. The coroner found a lack of suitable equipment and poor decision-making led to Chee dying from hypothermia. >The following winter in June 2019, Takaka woman Tracey Smith died en route to Angelus after becoming hypothermic in blizzard-like conditions. Less than 24 hours earlier, two trampers were rescued from deep snow in the same area, about four kilometres away from the hut. >International visitors were involved in 65 percent of the incidents, which typically happened in autumn and spring and nearly all the people were aged between 18 and 34. >New Zealanders were involved in 35 percent of the incidents which mostly occurred in summer to those over the age of 35. >Daisley said the report was aimed at targeting interventions for different groups of trampers and the problems they faced. >One of the findings showed that in almost half of the search and rescue operations and fatalities, people continued to press on for Angelus Hut despite clear signs that they should have turned back. >"Essentially it's - 'I've got a few days to do this, maybe just today and I really want to get to that destination and despite everyone's senses, telling them - this is a bad idea, the weather has gone south and I need to head home, I really want to get to that place'." >It also found for many the trip took longer than expected and they were unprepared for the weather conditions or the terrain. >One of the report recommendations proposed promoting the importance of having another plan in the event of bad weather - perhaps an alternative track in a nearby location. >"By people having that planning in place the science clearly shows that if I've got a plan B, I'll activate it a lot sooner than if I'm thinking on my feet." >The report also recommended signage at key decision making points along the routes, prompting trampers to examine the conditions and terrain and consider turning back. >The Department of Conservation manages 14,000 kilometres of tracks across Aotearoa, much of the terrain is in mountainous, remote and rugged environments. >Visitor safety manager Andy Roberts said the report provided a fresh perspective on what could be done to improve outcomes for people and built on the work already being done by DOC. >He said decision making signage was reserved as a last resort for its most difficult hotspot areas. >"Angelus gives us concern because there's been multiple fatalities there. >"By the time that we can put signage up on the side of a mountain that says, 'if you've got to this point, and the weather's looking dodgy, you might need to turn around' that's like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff." >He said DOC was increasingly using different channels of communication to get messages out to people early in their planning, including through social media or the booking website. >The Nelson Lakes team were already sending out alerts to booked users in the case of significant or unseasonal weather forecasts. >Roberts said a campaign that encouraged trampers to have an alternative plan in case of bad weather was a great idea with national relevance. >"It would be great for all of the organisations involved to promote that sort of thinking, you know, have a plan B trip in your back pocket." >One thing the report didn't reference was emergency locator beacons, which remained a simple emergency fix and "fantastic line of defence" for when people got into trouble, Roberts said. >"It's a tried and absolutely tested technology, helping people get out of difficult situations."
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