Solo climber rescued from Boys Glacier mountain top

14 June 2024

A solo climber was successfully rescued from Boys Glacier in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park this morning in a joint operation that demonstrated effective search and rescue coordination between specialist teams.

Maritime New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre initiated an operation to locate and retrieve a male climber in his early 30s from the top of the glacier after receiving an active alert from a personal locator beacon about 5.45pm Thursday. The climber was also able to tell Police via a 111 call that he had been injured from a fall and required help.

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

Keith Allen, a Maritime NZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer, said there were immediate concerns for the climber’s welfare but due to poor weather and nightfall, the rescue team could not launch a helicopter operation to retrieve him until morning. Communications with the climber confirmed he was cold and wet but was able to shelter in a sleeping bag for the night.

Helicopter vision of Boys Glacier during the rescue operation.
Helicopter vision of Boys Glacier 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 frost bite 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 overnight and into the morning, we were able to coordinate the team to the climber’s location Friday morning. Weather complicated the operation with low cloud hanging around below the climber, who was at about 6000 feet altitude.

“The climber’s shelter had been compromised during the night and he and his all of belongings had become completely saturated. However, the team was able to reach him and he was successfully rescued when weather allowed on Friday morning.

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

“The operation was 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 said the helicopter with DOC SAR team reached the climber at 8.46am.

DOC Search and Rescue Project Lead Scotty Barrier said a helicopter was able to nose into the steep terrain so rescuers could jump out, rope together and traverse to the climber to extract him from a dangerous location which was in a potential avalanche path.

Helicopter vision of Boys Glacier during the rescue operation.
Helicopter vision during the rescue operation. Source: supplied.

“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 which is vital equipment for those heading into the mountains.

“The weather was challenging, and this incident is a reminder for people venturing into unforgiving terrain in the mountains in winter that the environment and weather need the utmost respect. It’s also important to carry a weatherproof shelter for emergency situations.”

Scotty Barrier said the successful rescue was a great example of several organisations working together for the best outcome for a patient.

Maritime NZ Rescue Coordination Centre added that anyone who has a personal locator beacon should register it so search and rescue officers can contact them or their next of kin if sends emergency signals. For information on how to register and a PLB, visit the Beacons website: www.beacons.org.nz

Maritime NZ Media contact:
media@maritimenz.govt.nz
Ph: 04 499 7318

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