4 Dec 2008

Stranded Japanese climbers receive emergency pack

5:57 am on 4 December 2008

Emergency provisions have been dropped to Japanese climbers stranded on Aoraki-Mt Cook, but weather conditions are still too difficult for rescuers to reach them.

Severe winds on Wednesday again prevented a helicopter from reaching the two men from Tokyo who have been on the mountain in the Southern Alps for a week.

Conditions are unlikely to improve until Saturday, but rescuers are ready to move if there is a break in the high winds and rain.

Guide Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, 49, and his client Hideaki Nara, aged 51, are camped 3,700 metres up the mountain. They began their climb on Wednesday 26 November and were due back at Mt Cook village last Saturday.

A helicopter rescue attempt was thwarted on Wednesday morning by severe winds which have buffeted the upper mountain in recent days.

However, it was able to get close enough to drop a 70kg pack of emergency provisions to last several days. The pack includes food, a cooker and fuel, sleeping bags, warm clothing and a radio with instructions in Japanese.

The pack landed beside the tent and was retrieved by one of the climbers. Police say they will now wait for any radio messages.

On Tuesday, a helicopter spotted one of the men waving from a tent at a crevasse at Middle Peak, but it was too dangerous to put a rescue party on the mountain. Rescuers did not see the second man, and hoped he was in the tent.

Police said searchers have been forced to stay at Mt Cook village as the weather continues to deteriorate.

Weekend weather was good

Earlier, Senior Constable Brent Swanson, of Tekapo, said the weather had been good for climbing at the weekend and the men appeared to have done everything right, and to be relatively well equipped.

"One of the men ... is experienced, he has climbed in the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park before, and also Mt Aspiring. We don't know too much about the second gentleman, but they seemed to be doing alright, albeit a bit slowly, when they were spotted."

The tent is in the same area that climbers Mark Inglis and Phillip Doole spent 14 days trapped in 1982.