tramper swept away on Milford Track

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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby photohiker » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:02 pm

RonK wrote:Here's another trampers journal with pictures and comments about the warning they received.

Hmm:

The guide pamphlet had let us know that if the path across the river is flooded at all, do not attempt to cross it, but wait in the Bus Stop until the river subsides.


So, this looks like the spot, seems to match the description from both the reports and the above blog. By the sound of it, for the accident, we're talking about the bridge NW of the lodge.

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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:06 pm

SE next to the bus stop, the bridge at the NE on the map will be a permanent one.. the removable bridges arent necessarily marked on the maps, there are no less than three creeks that are bridged in that area in summer but only one bridge on hte map
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby GPSGuided » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:14 pm

DId you mean NW of the lodge?

As I commented on earlier, the guys sought help from Mintaro Hut to the NW of Pompolona Lodge, suggesting that they are b/n the two lodges, not b/n Bus Stop Shelter and Pompolona Lodge.

Google Earth of the section. Pompolona Lodge is at the bottom right.

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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby photohiker » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:23 pm

GPSGuided wrote:DId you mean NW of the lodge?

As I commented on earlier, the guys sought help from Mintaro Hut to the NW of Pompolona Lodge, suggesting that they are b/n the two lodges, not b/n Bus Stop Shelter and Pompolona Lodge.


Lol. :) Yes, NW of the lodge. Fixed.

I think I read somewhere that Pompolona Lodge is a guided walk lodge. Maybe they didn't know about it? I'll go with wayno's suggestion that the creek in point is the one near the bus shelter. Why they didn't just go there and wait beggars belief.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby GPSGuided » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:29 pm

I Googled and read a blog of a trip report and realised that the lodges are specific for guided walkers while DOC huts and shelters are for independent walkers. There's a significant difference in the level of facilities.

I don't believe the guy would not seek help from Pompolona lodge given how much closer it is. It would have been clearly marked on the track. If the accident was on the south side of Pompolona Lodge, then the walkers would not have gone to Mintaro Hut. On the satellite view, there's one other creek that wasn't shown on the topo map. None of them were labelled with a name.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:47 pm

pomplona lodge , like all the guided huts and shelters closes in mid april, there is no one there, its locked up.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Thu 22 May, 2014 6:51 pm

it was stated in one of the news articles that the groups thinking was the only other option was to walk several hours back down the track to the previous hut...
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby GPSGuided » Thu 22 May, 2014 7:33 pm

Good point on the closure!
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby geoskid » Thu 22 May, 2014 7:47 pm

wayno wrote:radio interview with milford track guide
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/progr ... ford-track


This is a good interview Wayno, and not surprisingly given his experience, pretty well covers it. Also a bit on how the track is marketed.
I'm really not sure what more DOC can do, practically, for out of season independant walkers that are inexperienced.

It does seem to boil down to this group under-estimating the force of the water in the Pompolona Creek, and if so, they would'nt have even considered the possibility of being washed into Clinton River - which is the possibility they should have been focused on.
I think the warnings should be more explicitly explanatory about forces of water at knee/thigh high, and the consequence of ending up in a flooded Clinton River, which would be an order of magnitude worse than a flooded Pompolona Creek.
I don't think it's enough to say , in effect , don't do it - it needs to be spelt out why not.
Also, they would have been walking along side the absolutely roaring Clinton River (at 2m above normal), but didn't perceive the real danger.

Sort of in the same vein, when we were there(no snow) we saw the avalanche signs designating start/end of zones. Having no experience with avalanches, I found it hard to imagine the snow coming that far onto the track, although I believed the signs.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby RonK » Thu 22 May, 2014 11:01 pm

wayno wrote:the first crossing series they have wire cables supporting them during dangerous climbing segments, the cables are then edited out...
they are a bit gung ho, especially on the buller river, evidenced when they jumped into the river and one of them got sucked under by the current and nearly drowned... sometimes i'm not convinced about the routes they take, some i think may just be there for show to dramatise things, although they are also trying to recreate events that were commented about by the original adventurers.
they are ALWAYS CLEAN SHAVEN. and they always have abundant energy, so they must be getting a lot of additional support on these multi day trips.... they must be getting regular good feeds and eating more than the food they show they carry... sponsor is the north face, so i'm guessing they have some nice comfy clothes, tents and sleeping bags to retire to when they need them...
but still its a great watch and they've done well to get it onto tv and DVD and they are still out there making a massive effort in some very difficult places, better to be safe than sorry
one scene i could make out the shape of residual floatation devices underneath their shirts when they did one river crossing,
it would be more honest to tell people how much support they get, otherwise its a case of telling kids "don't try this at home"

Yes, it's that near-drowning in the Buller that I was thinking of when I mentioned misjudgement. I'm sure some parts are dramatised, but I'm just as sure that bit was not.

It is a great watch, and I'm keen to see series 2 which hasn't been shown here yet.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Fri 23 May, 2014 4:52 am

the milford track is probably similar to the Overland track in that it's highly publicised and attracts people who end up out of their depth when the weather turns bad. DOC have limited resources and the track is just one of thousands of tracks they have to look after, they administer a third of the land in NZ...
people say more should be done to inform and prevent, DOC are having their budget constantly slashed,
that may be why doc cut the brochure they used to give out for free for the milford track and removed the information about bridges being removed and moved it to their website...
the latest news article the parents of the dead tramper say every step should be taken by authorities from a tragedy like this happening, DOC are being tactful and stopping short of saying its the responsibility of trampers to look after themselves and stay safe on the track and obtain the necessary information..
hte publicity of the milford track is usually people enjoying great weather strolling on a track and over bridges, how hard can it be.... thousands do it every year, unless people bother reading the material available from doc about the track then they won't be aware that they may be held up by flood waters or cut off out of the high season when some bridges are removed and streams rise rapidly...
its still the back country, on the whole its a good track which attracts people that wouldnt normally take on rougher track, people are saying the dead girls boyfriend was extremely experienced but experience is relative to the type of terrain you have experience in... i'd probably be a liability in large parts of australia...
most people i know who tramp in NZ have had some narrow scrapes in dangerous situations, but they dont blame the authorities for not documenting the dangers extensively... wilderness can be a dangerous place and you can get caught out regardless of what the authorities do to reduce and document those risks..
the milford track isnt unique at all as far as dangers go.... an average of three people a year drown tramping in the back country in NZ. there are countless streams that can flood... possibly hundreds of thousands or millions. in summer the worst of those crossings are dealt with with temp bridges, but like a lot of places in NZ, some bridges would suffer flood or avalanche damage in winter, it would cost doc a fortune to replace those bridges every spring. they cant keep all the people safe all the time....
its like experienced hunters who end up shooting people they think are deer,, some people's experience can make them over confident or complacent when they get into risky situations... you can end up out of your depth pretty quickly and not realise it until it's too late,. no matter how experiencd you are, keep your wits about you, keep questioning your ability to cope with difficult situations and don't hesitate to back off if something tells you you are getting into a situation that may be too difficult..
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tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby RonK » Fri 23 May, 2014 12:08 pm

And one thing that visitors need to be aware of is that you cannot sue for damages or injuries. New Zealand has a national scheme that compensates with fixed payments which many visitors may consider inadequate.

This is why NZ has things like bungee jumping and other potentially hazard ous adventure activities.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby izogi » Fri 23 May, 2014 12:36 pm

RonK wrote:And one thing that visitors need to be aware of is that you cannot sue for damages or injuries. New Zealand has a national scheme that compensates with fixed payments which many visitors may consider inadequate. This is why NZ has things like bungee jumping and other potentially hazard ous adventure activities.


I'm not sure that's a totally accurate representation of ACC. Operators can still be (and are) held criminally liable for anything which goes wrong if they're found to be breaking the law, so it's not as if there's no incentive for them to do their job properly.

The idea with ACC is to ensure that accident victims actually get reasonable treatment without needing to go through all the court stress, and regardless of whether whoever caused the accident can afford to pay for it, and regardless of whether the victim can afford more expensive lawyers than that person's insurance company (if there is one). It also reduces load on the courts and generally makes insurance premiums cheaper on both sides, because much of the accident portion is already covered through ACC. In the outdoor sector, ACC contributes to SAR costs by (for example) funding helicopter use that results from an accident.

But yeah, it's certainly not perfect. It's biased towards people who actually live in New Zealand. ACC won't normally fund accident-related medical treatment outside NZ, so reasonable travel insurance in line with what you're planning on a trip is a good idea.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby RonK » Fri 23 May, 2014 1:04 pm

izogi wrote:
RonK wrote:And one thing that visitors need to be aware of is that you cannot sue for damages or injuries. New Zealand has a national scheme that compensates with fixed payments which many visitors may consider inadequate. This is why NZ has things like bungee jumping and other potentially hazard ous adventure activities.


I'm not sure that's a totally accurate representation of ACC. Operators can still be (and are) held criminally liable for anything which goes wrong if they're found to be breaking the law, so it's not as if there's no incentive for them to do their job properly.

The idea with ACC is to ensure that accident victims actually get reasonable treatment without needing to go through all the court stress, and regardless of whether whoever caused the accident can afford to pay for it, and regardless of whether the victim can afford more expensive lawyers than that person's insurance company (if there is one). It also reduces load on the courts and generally makes insurance premiums cheaper on both sides, because much of the accident portion is already covered through ACC. In the outdoor sector, ACC contributes to SAR costs by (for example) funding helicopter use that results from an accident.

But yeah, it's certainly not perfect. It's biased towards people who actually live in New Zealand. ACC won't normally fund accident-related medical treatment outside NZ, so reasonable travel insurance in line with what you're planning on a trip is a good idea.

I wasn't attempting a detailed explanation, just raising awareness. Sure, operators are still liable if they break the law, but not for negligence as in Australia or the US. In the context of an incident like this one for instance, it would not be possible to sue for negligence that adequate warning about potential hazards was not given. I suspect very few visitors are aware that the system is different in New Zealand.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby izogi » Fri 23 May, 2014 1:58 pm

RonK wrote:I wasn't attempting a detailed explanation, just raising awareness.

Yes, fair enough point. The main thing which caught my attention was the implication that the potentially hazardous activities available are a consequence of a reduced right to sue. If that's what you meant then I'm not sure I agree, but I haven't seen all the data on it so maybe there's something in it. NZ certainly has had several fairly high profile adventure-related accidents in recent years.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby stry » Fri 23 May, 2014 7:57 pm

Wayno - good point about continually reassessing one's ability to cope with whatever is happening.

I am aware that one of my personal weaknesses (and strengths) is to make an assessment and if I reckon I do it, go for it. At this point, I am confident and committed, and can easily keep pushing and focusing on the goal, when perhaps a change of plan would be more prudent. Of course, pushing hard is what gets things done.

It's worked out OK for me for a long time, but I think that is an excellent point and one which I will work harder at cultivating.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby north-north-west » Sat 24 May, 2014 9:20 am

GPSGuided wrote:Guess that's the point. Not being local, would they have known the normal water level?

Not being local, why wouldn't they have had the sense to check on potential dangers beforehand, and thus have some idea of the normal water level?

OK, it's tragic and I know it sounds a bit callous, but if there's any blame in this event it rests squarely with the walkers themselves. If you're going bush, even on as well-maintained a track as the Milford, you have to take responsibility for your own actions and decisions. (yes, I know this is a constant refrain from me)
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Sat 24 May, 2014 9:32 am

possibly because of previous publicity they've seen of the milford track of people being able to complete the trip in wet weather..
if you're not aware that bridges are removed in winter and you've seen publicity of people crossing bridges on the track and completing the track with little problem in heavy rain then it just may not occur .
on the milford road there is an extensive program to bomb avalanche prone areas in winter, the track becomes a no go zone in mid winter... but if all you've seen is the media from summer trips how would you know...
thousands complete the track every year... most people doing it outside peak season are more aware and prepared for issues like bad weather and missing bridges.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby north-north-west » Sat 24 May, 2014 11:51 am

wayno wrote:possibly because of previous publicity they've seen of the milford track of people being able to complete the trip in wet weather..
if you're not aware that bridges are removed in winter and you've seen publicity of people crossing bridges on the track and completing the track with little problem in heavy rain then it just may not occur .

Regardless, how many operative brain cells do you have to have before you realise that weather changes, conditions change, and advertising doesn't tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Sat 24 May, 2014 11:53 am

then theres youth and over confidence.... and the "it won't happen to me" attitude
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby north-north-west » Sat 24 May, 2014 12:18 pm

wayno wrote:then theres youth and over confidence.... and the "it won't happen to me" attitude

Oh, yes.
Don't get me wrong, I understand how it happened - I've made plenty of dumb decisions myself - but the fact remains that they cannot justify blaming anyone but themselves.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby izogi » Sat 24 May, 2014 12:48 pm

To be fair it's only been the third person (the German guy who they met shortly before they began) who was publicly quoted as blaming DOC for not telling them that bridges weren't there, supposely meaning they had to risk a crossing in his explanation. From the way it's been written, though, it looks to be picked from a facebook page or similar, which he probably hadn't meant to be quoted so widely and it could easily have been more grief or guilt speaking than considered logic. As far as I know the victim's boyfriend hasn't said anything publicly to blame anyone else.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby GPSGuided » Sat 24 May, 2014 12:54 pm

NNW, I think it's easy to be wise when one ages. For someone in their 20s, they have a lot more to learn unless guided by someone with experiences. And with all the guidebooks and DIY adventure information out there, it's easy to get caught. Further, the males of the group may not have sufficiently considered the physical differences of a younger and smaller female. All very unfortunate.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Sat 24 May, 2014 5:34 pm

from the land of the long white clouds...

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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby roysta » Sun 25 May, 2014 7:46 pm

Many familiar with New Zealand conditions will know fast moving streams there can be lethal.
I remember a couple of years ago getting over a couple of fast moving streams near Dart Hut on the way to Cascade Saddle.
But at the third one, going in up over the thighs even with sticks was the time to turn around.
Unfortunately many tourists in NZ just don't realise and tragedy follows.
Wayne summed it up earlier when mentioning how DOC has had the rugged pulled out from beneath.
Personal responsibility has to kick in somewhere and it should be up to each individual to seek out information for themselves rather than taking the easy option (blaming someone else).
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby stry » Sun 25 May, 2014 9:07 pm

GPSGuided wrote:NNW, I think it's easy to be wise when one ages. For someone in their 20s, they have a lot more to learn unless guided by someone with experiences. And with all the guidebooks and DIY adventure information out there, it's easy to get caught. Further, the males of the group may not have sufficiently considered the physical differences of a younger and smaller female. All very unfortunate.


Age shouldn't be a prerequisite for being a wee bit apprehensive (euphemism for scared) when confronted by nature in an evil mood. Anyone who, at any age, doesn't know enough to be scared is heading for trouble of some sort sooner or later.

I was in my late 20s when I first walked in NZ (alpine South Island). I had been told about wild rivers, but it still grabs one's attention when confronting a very angry river and, for the first time in my short life, hearing the rumbling of very large rocks being tumbled along the bottom by the water. I didn't try to cross.

Same trip I got into a bit of bother half way across a thigh/hip high crossing when I couldn't unweight either foot to move it forward without it being ripped sidewise off the bottom by the current. I don't remember how that was resolved, but I did complete the crossing and I'm (obviously) still here. I have been smashed weather wise on a couple of other occasions in NZ. By all means carry a PLB (I do nowadays) but understand that if you need help in these conditions, nothing can fly, and it may not be possible for a ground party to reach you without endangering themselves.

I also agree with everything NNW has posted in this thread.

I would also suggest that, for all we know, the party may very well have given some thought to their position and their options, and in retrospect, simply made a bad call. These things happen.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Sat 21 Jun, 2014 1:20 pm

some interesting anecdotes in the comments of this articles about what inexperienced foreigners get up to in the NZ mountains...

http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/1018 ... to-trouble
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby izogi » Sat 21 Jun, 2014 2:48 pm

Lots of really arrogant, ignorant and borderline racist comments on there, too, but it is on Stuff.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Tue 21 Oct, 2014 2:51 pm

Tourist death prompts DOC change
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/106422 ... DOC-change

Bridges on the Milford Track will be left up for five weeks longer after a review following the death of a tourist on the track.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) will also make changes to its website and on the tracks to highlight the hazards visitors face on the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks over winter.
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Re: tramper swept away on Milford Track

Postby wayno » Tue 21 Oct, 2014 3:27 pm

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/progr ... ford-track

Kathryn Ryan interviewed Allan Munn this morning on Nine to Noon (Radio NZ National). Allan Munn is the Department of Conservation's Southern Region Services Director. The interview regards changes being made following the death, in May 2014, of a person who was swept away from the Milford Track.

This morning's 20 minute interview can be listened to here.
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