Taranaki Alpine Cliff Rescue (Inc)

Training and Equipment

Specialised Rescue Equipment is kept at both the New Plymouth and Hawera Police Stations

April 14th Helicopter training 9am at the Rescue helicopter hanger. Will conduct briefing then carry out hover loads and unloads on sloping ground, general entry/exit. This will be with ther squirrel helicopter. Bring a pack and hardware( no spikes).
April 15th AGM 7pm at TEMO Building 45 Robe Street, Marsland Hill Youir presence would be appreciated. Hear about the new requirements for ACR.
April 20-21st High Directional Skills Based at Patea hydro dam campsite, Rotorangi Road, Patea. Start time 10am. you will need a tent, and be self-sufficient for 24 hours. Hoit showers available. Bring breakfast, lunch and snacks. evening meal supplied. Please confirm interest by 12th April.
May 4-5th Helicopter Strop and Winch. Based at Ruapehu
June 1-2-3rd OPC Technical Rope Workshop. Please confirm by May 1st if interested.
June 15th -16th PHEC Refresher Based at Ruapehu
June 22nd -23rd Alpine search methods Based at Ruapehu
July 6th - 7th Vertical Rope Rescue Based at Ruapehu
July 13th Snow lowering Based at Manganui Ski Field
August 10th -11th Avalanche Awareness Based at Ruapehu
August 30th -31st Team Climb/Fanthoms area Based at Kapuni Lodge
September 9th Stretcher Raise/Lower Based in NP
October 7th Tranceiver refresher training Based in NP
November 2nd -3rd LandSAR SAREX More details later
December 7th BBQ Based at NP
November 30th -31st Vertical Rope Rescue In NP
More events in the pipeline, but dates are yet to be confirmed

October 4th 2011 - Rescue of Climber from Syme hut

TACR members Vaughan Smith( NP Police), Jonathan Crane( TAC) and Alan Kerrisk(EAC), yesterday carried out the rescue of a woman and her husband stuck in Syme Hut overnight after she suffered a broken toe while making her way up. The accident was caused by a fast moving lump of ice some 6-8 inches in diameter which struck the side of Hannahs boot. The impact bent the side of the front steel crampon bail into her boot crushing and breaking the small toe of her left foot. They continued on to the shelter of Syme Hut where the full extent of the injury became known. Poice were notified of their situation. A request was made for more effective pain killers along with extra food, as weather conditions from Sunday evening were atrocious and not expected to be clear enough for evacuation from there by helicopter, until Thursday. Vaughan, Jonathon and Alan left Dawson Falls with the medical supplies and extra food at 9am on Monday in pouring rain and headed on up. The rain gave way to sleet showers and a driving wind. They were pinned to the ground for nearly 10 mins near the false top unable to stand up against the wind, before a slight easing gave them their chance to move again. The pair were pleased to see this trio and the first of the intravenous pain killers were administered. A brew or two followed and it transpired that they had made an attempt to exit Syme on Sunday, but the harder surface conditions across to the False top were causing her pain and discomfort, so they returned. It helped that Hannah could put weight on her foot and was keen to get down. With visibility across to the False top, it was agreed to attempt to descend with the rescuers. She was roped to Vaughan and Jonathon, while Alan went in front with GP husband, Dan. The rain had softened the snow and made it more comfortable to descend, and further down she was able to sit on the snow and enjoy a controlled slide giving her foot some relief. More intravenous drugs were administered at the top of the wooden steps, which enabled her to make her way steadily back with the others to Dawson Falls just after 6pm.(Go to the following link for images of this operation).Rescue from Syme

July 2-3 Training Weekend based at Kapuni Lodge

A good muster of team members took advantage of the fine weather and great winter conditions to get out and enjoy a climb up to Syme Hut and back. View some of the images from the climb here

Taranaki Track Information- Autumn 2012 Update PDF icon

Paritutu Rescue - December 10th 2010

TACR members were involved in the rescue of an injured person from the seaward side of Paritutu Rock on December 10th. Click on this link to the story with images of the successful operation. Paritutu Rescue

November 14th 2010

Trapped pair rescued from Fanthams Peak

On Saturday 13th at 9:30pm, Bruce Mouat received a call from Mike Johns of( DoC) in New Plymouth to inform him that two climbers were trapped on Fanthams Peak in deteriorating conditions and needed rescuing. Bruce then did a ring around and managed to get TACR members John Cooper and Alan Kerrisk to assist. These three were transported to Dawson Falls and set off up the summit track. Visibility earlier was not too bad, but got progressively worse as they climbed higher. Very strong NW winds were encountered and their parka hoods were drawn up as they topped the Knoll. From then on it was essentially a case of keeping a grip on the mountain by trying to stay on the path! Light misty drizzle blew incessantly and they found it serious business crawling their way over the False Top in the hideous gale. It was now 1am Sunday morning and it was here that they spotted a red light shining from inside a plastic survival bag, a little left of their position, and on sloping scoria below the Copestone Rock outcrop. Getting to them took the trio another full 5 minutes.

The pair, being Nathan from Auckland and his partner Kirsten, were snuggled together in a wet sleeping bag, minus their wet clothing, trying to provide each other with some essential body heat. They were so glad to see their rescuers (even though they had next to nothing on!!) They had nothing insulating them from the cold ground either and would have been in a dire situation if left much longer. They were cold and uncomfortable and the gale force winds driving down from above had only served to chill them and move them further down the slope and away from where their packs (with clothing) were positioned. After notifying comms, Bruce, John and Alan soon got them into dry polypro tops, long johns and windfleece jackets they had brought with them for this purpose and zipped the pair into their own parkas and overtrousers and boots ready to move out. A decision was made to try and get everybody to Syme Hut. The logic being that it was close and would provide some respite from the wind. With this in mind, they set off upwards into the gale, hugging the rocks on the edge of the scoria to avoid being blown over! This was not a nice experience at all and more than a little disconcerting for this pair as they all crawled upward to meet the full force of this hurricaine strength wind. It was clearly just too risky to push this any further, and not surprisingly, they very quickly agreed to beat a retreat and try and get everyone down to safer terrain. Slowly and cautiously they made their way down below False Top and in easing conditions below, they both felt more relaxed and freely talked with their rescuers about the events that lead up to this situation.

All arrived back at Dawson Falls at 4:45am. The Dawson Falls Tourist Lodge deserve a special mention here - they opened up to have refreshments available to this returning group that included hot soup, toast, crackers with cheese, and biscuits along with tea and coffee. This was very much appreciated. And here is something else... they even offered to accommodate the rescued pair free of charge for the night - and this they gratefully accepted! An ambulance officer arrived also and took details from them both. Shortly after, two police officers in a police 4WD driven by Sergeant Matt Prendergast from New Plymouth, arrived to transport the rescuers home.

Each rescue is different - but what can we learn from this one?

It transpired that this climber pair left Auckland at 5:30am on Saturday 13th and drove to Dawson Falls. They then set off with overnight packs at 6:30pm to climb to, and stay at Syme Hut, with the intention of summitting from there the next day. They made a mistake in not checking with Metservice to verify local mountain weather conditions for the weekend ( strong NW, cloudy with drizzle and deteriorating.) As a result, they got caught in gale force (and white out ) conditions on the False Top, and darkness, leading to disorientation and no small amount of fear! When they realised their predicament, they made a logical decision and called for help. This they did get praise for. They were able to provide accurate details of their location and everything else about themselves to the police - they were found just where they said they were. Anything that can be used, should be used to help insulate against cold from the ground, after they had got into their other dry clothes and shell clothing first. Cellphones are life savers - Telecom network works best here. They function well when warm too, not when left in a pack on the ground getting cold!

Nathan and Kirsten were grateful to their rescuers, and have not been put off by this experience. They have climbed here previously and will do so again.

Injured Tramper brought down from Syme Hut

On the Monday morning of Queens Birthday Weekend 2010, Bruce Mouat got a call from Mike Johns ( Taranaki Landsar) requesting assistance for a team of alpine cliff rescue members to get up to Syme Hut to bring down an injured tramper. At 1pm that afternoon Bruce, along with John Cooper, Craig Tippett and Alan Kerrisk left Hawera Police station for Dawson Falls. They made their way up to the Kapuni Lodge Turnoff where they met up with Steven Orr ( TACR member and Taranaki Rescue Helicopter paramedic) who had been taken to Dawson Falls by car earlier. These five continued up Fanthams Peak with the intention of returning with the injured tramper by the end of the day. It was clouded and windy above and they had several brief clearances enabling them to see onto the false top. However, it was not clear enough for the Iroquis helicopter which was heard below thumping its way around the southern side searching for a hole in the cloud that would give them their break. The rescuers found it somewhat testing just to stand upright against the wind while crossing from the false top to Syme Hut. Mohammed Thompson, the 51 year old injured tramper, and sole occupant of the hut, was there to welcome them when they arrived. He too, had heard the helicopter and had scrambled to get all his kit packed and ready to move out the door. By this time it was 5:30 pm and the light was fading fast.

Mohammed explained how he had ascended from North Egmont to the summit on the Saturday and came down to Syme Hut for the night. On Sunday morning he left Syme Hut to begin his descent. He had barely gone 100m metres from the hut when a gust of wind toppled him over and he fell, injuring his right knee. It was that painful, he literally had to crawl back to the hut! He rang DoC to request help. He was well equipped, but advised to stay put and await assistance. Steve took a look at his right leg and determined that it was a knee strain. Some voltaren made a big difference at this point and he was able to put more weight on it and walk around inside the hut more freely after a short time. The rescue team were a little light on food and equipment for an overnight stay as they had planned to do a quick turnaround and return. The decision to stay over was however, the right one. The forecast was for a change to southerly winds with snowfall down to 700m! It was cool and clear enough at 8pm that evening to be able to see the lights of Eltham and Stratford below, but a different story from about 10pm onwards, when it began to blow and snow! All occupants in the hut that night snuggled up together to keep warm, as it was very cold.

There were some fierce gusts of wind during the night and everything was white outside next morning. Snow had even forced its way under the door and was banked up against the inside wall! By 8am the rescue team decided that they would try and make their way down to Kapuni Lodge with Mohammed - a warm fire and extra food to be found there meant it was the logical decision. Police Special Operations in New Plymouth were informed, and they set out just after 9am in full winter gear, with crampons and ice axes. Mohammed was given more voltaren, his knee was strapped with tight fitting but flexible velcro support ready to go. He was harnessed and short roped to Bruce who was behind. Craig and Alan also wore harnesses and provided direct assistant to Mohammed on the descent. The newly fallen soft snow, which was knee deep in places, made it a little easier for the patient and with John and Steve leading the way down through the cloud and light sleet, they were safely back to the Kapuni Lodge turnoff before 10:30am. Mohammed was going so well by this stage, that they unroped him and he continued on unassisted walking slowly down the track together with the rescuers in lighly falling snow. Just above Hooker Shelter, they met up with four more TACR rescuers and below them another Landsar team of six who were to provide stretcher support should it be needed. On arrival at Dawson Falls, a Daily News photographer and reporter took details from Mohammed about his ordeal. He was clearly grateful to his rescuers, especially to Steve for the medical help, as well as those that carried the contents of his pack in their own packs. He hopes it will never happen again! See the photos and Taranaki Daily News story on the following link "I hope this never happens again!"

Rescue of Injured Climber - 24th October

Team members Mike Johns and Peter Lethbridge were both involved in the recovery of an injured climber from East Egmont on Saturday of Labour Weekend. The following article has been scanned from the Taranaki Daily New of Monday 26th October.

newspaper story newspaper photo

Rescue of Trampers near Lake Dive - October 11th 2009

The following is an account by member Jeff Rawson of the rescue of two Tramper brothers caught out in bad conditions on the Lower Lake Dive Track following strong winds, rain and heavy snowfalls.

Saturday night we had a call out for two missing persons, believed to be between Dawson Falls and Lake Dive Hut on the lower track. Bruce, Kevin and myself left Hawera at 7-30pm heading for Dawson Falls to meet with paramedic, Megan and Police SAR member, Vaughan. We encountered snow below Dawson Falls on the road requiring 4WD. After a quick check around the car park for vehicles and looking at the intentions book, we were instructed to procced to Lake Dive via the lower track as a group and search the area as we went. With plenty of snow on the ground we were able to make reasonable progress to Hasties Hill turnoff. With clear sets of footprints in the snow to follow we began our march to Lake Dive, stopping at regular intervals to yell out. From the Hasties Hill turnoff the snow varied in depth from being ankle deep to knee deep with a lot more fallen trees and branches across the track.

After setting off from Dawson Falls at 9pm it had taken a good three hours to reach the last of the river crossings before the final approach to lake Dive Hut, by now the track was just knee deep in snow and the temperature was droping to below freezing. Our concerns were now growing for the missing two, as they had left Dawson Falls at 9-30am and had been out in cold wet conditions for about 17hrs. We kept pushing on toward Lake Dive Hut battling through more and more trees brought down by heavy snow and wind. We came across a lone boot in the snow on the track but no owner, with footprints still heading toward the hut, we continued to follow. Having arrived at a large windfall I made my way around it only to find no tracks on the other side, upon calling out a couple of times my call was returned. The missing two were found just off the track, cold, very wet, and extremely pleased as you can imagine to see the five of us!! Thankfully there were no injuries and after an accessment of the situation it was decided to try and get the two persons to Lake Dive Hut.

This proved a little bit trying as this last part of the track seemed to be the worst affected by wind fall so far! What would normally take 10-15mins did take over 30mins(I dont think my time estimation will be trusted again!). On arriving at the hut a hot drink, some food, dry clothes, and of course with the pleasant company of the rescue team, the two persons were feeling a little better. By now the time had ticked by and it was past 2am. We were informed that an Air Force Crew had been put on standby at the Hawera Airport and were ready to fly in and pick up the two persons and Megan. It didnt seem to take long when we heard the familar thump of the helicopter approaching. With impressive efficiency, the two persons and Megan were winched onboard and whisked away to New Plymouth Hospital. We were then advised that the chopper would return for Bruce, Kevin, Vaughan and myself in 3mins. (on hearing this it was pointed out that the pilot was probably using the Jeff estimation for time!)

With further displays of team work and efficiency, we were all winched aboard the chopper safely and had a very enjoyable but cold ride (I did feel sorry for Kevin sitting in the open doorway as we passed around the western side of the Mountain en route to New Plymouth Hospital!) After a very welcome hot brew at New Plymouth Police Station, Bruce, Kevin and myself were transported via road back to Bruce's vehicle at Dawson Falls. On the trip back to Hawera we reflected on the previous few hours and at how fortunate the outcome was - and, how it might not have been such a great outcome, had the pair not been found until the morning. On arriving home at 5-30am it was great to get out of wet clothes and into a nice hot shower!

Winter Exercise 13th September 2009

At the end of the stropThe morning of 12 Sept dawned fine and clear for TACRs annual winter exercise on Taranaki/Mt Egmont. This years training focused on team deployment utilising a strop arrangement suspended under the helicopter. The strop consists of a pair of 12mm static ropes 25m long, purpose made for attaching to the belly hook of the aircraft. A backup sling is passed through the cabin and attached to the strop should the hook fail for any reason. Rescuers clip on to the other end and the pilot manoeuvres the craft to enable them to walk on of off the end of the strop. This enables rescuers to access most terrain in the alpine environment without requiring the helicopter to land or hover for prolonged durations, such as required for winching. Taking off from Stratford Plateau (alt. 1172m) afforded the team a short 5 min ride in the chopper to Syme Hut on Fantham Peak (alt. 1966m). Once all the members had been ferried up the mountain, the helicopter was configured with the strop. Each rescue pair consisted of one experienced person and one trainee. Before attaching to the strop each person conducted safety checks on their buddy.

Each pair were lifted from Syme Hut and placed in turn at various locations around the 1950m contour until they were returned back to Syme Hut. An hour and ten minutes later it was all over - a total of sixteen trips involving three locations and four pairs of rescuers. The helo was de-configured and flew away leaving the team to enjoy a quiet lunch in one of the best mountain locations the North Island has to offer. Following a short debrief the team walked back to their cars via Curtis Ridge and the ski-field, taking a little over one and a half hours. This training was only made possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust.(Check out the photos by Ross Eden on the Gallery Page)

July 14th 2009

Members assist with Tararuas search

On the afternoon of July 14th Levin Police requested the assistance of Taranaki Alpine Cliff Rescue team personnel to help search for missing trampers Seddon Bennington ( Te Papa Museum CEO), and his partner Marcella Jackson, overdue on a trip to Kime Hut in the Tararua Ranges, after searchers had earlier turned back from battling atrocious conditions and knee deep snow beyond Field Hut.TACR team members Early on Wednesday John and Helen Cooper, Jeff Rawson and Alan Kerrisk were transported from the Hawera Police Station by Sergeant George White and John Jordan in Police 4WD to Levin Station for a search briefing. (Left- Ready to go from Levin Police Station) They were to await deployment with a police dog and its handler, by Air Force Iroqouis helicopter to near Kime hut and search along the poled and snow covered top of the range from Bridge Peak towards the Maungahuka hut. After repacking, they were driven to a nearby park to await the helicopter. Meanwhile, New Plymouth members Jeremy Beckers and Vaughan Smith had made an even earlier start. The following is Jeremy's account. (After a late night and very little sleep, Vaughan arrived at my place a little after four am. Setting up CommsWe were requested to be at Ohakea Air Base at six thirty to catch a flight to Levin for a briefing, and then be flown up to Bridge Peak which is less than one km north of Kime Hut. Our tasking was to proceed north east along the main range, as it was considered that the missing party may have taken a wrong turn while heading to Kime Hut. The visibility was poor on the Saturday afternoon when they were up there and snow would have hindered navigation. Due to poor flying conditions Vaughan and I were dropped off above Otaki Forks but still had a fair walk to get to our search area.(Right - Vaughan Smith setting up comms in open area above Otaki Forks) After nearly an hour of walking, we heard via radio that the bodies were found. We were then requested to find a place to get picked up. After returning to our drop off point we were then requested to walk out.) Shortly after, the TACR team along with a Wellington SAR team were stood down following a de-briefing back at Levin Police Station before driving back to Hawera. Although the others did not get to be deployed, the police and search controllers greatly appreciated the help from TACR and acknowledged with thanks the efforts made to assist them with this operation.

There has been extensive media coverage of the missing Tararua trampers in recent days. It has been reported that the most likely cause of death was hypothermia.

Winter Exercise - August 30-31st 2008

TACR Team members on the Winter Exercise - East Egmont Plateau. August 30th 2008

A full compliment of TACR members turned up at the East Egmont Plateau for the August 30-31st Winter Exercise. Somewhat marginal weather conditions meant that the arrival of the TET Rescue Helicopter was delayed, and so, dressed in full atire, it was down to the Mountain House for tea and coffee to fill in time until things improved! There was a clearance later and all returned to the Plateau to watch the arrival of the helicopter.Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust Manager, Noel Watson, briefed the team once again with safety procedures, then exercise organiser Mike Johns, explained the order of activity for the day. The original plan was to fly all up to Fanthams Peak and from there make use of the strop to move people around. A stretcher lower on the snow slopes back down to Kapuni Lodge was to follow on. With no improvement by midday, the exercise was postponed till Sunday. With marginal conditions again early Sunday, the exercise was called off.

July 29th 2008

Two of our most experienced and dedicated members, Ross Eden and Kevin Lockley, have recently completed an advanced rope course utilising the newly acquired Arizona Vortex tripod - equipment so cutting edge that they have both had a major part in helping write the manual for its use. (An article appeared in the Taranaki Daily News on July 29th 2008 and has been reproduced below).

scanned article


TACR Entered a team of four ( Matt King, Ross Eden, Tom Barkla and Jeremy Beckers) in this years annual SAR competition held at the Mangaoraka carpark in Egmont National Park. There were six teams; Police SAR, Kopac Girls, TACR, Kopac Boys, Kiwi Outdoors and Tripods ( Independents). The competition was run over 5 scenarios; Observation ( spotting and identifying 50 objects in the bush), First Aid, Interviewing a witness, Navigation, General Knowledge and scene searching. TACR won with 170.5 points and Police SAR team came 2nd with 158 pts.

Winning Team
The winning team with the score card and the Craig Rookes Memorial Trophy

Notes on Evening Training

7:30pm on the last Wednesday of month - venues advertised in newsletter prior.

Car pooling will be available as necessary, please ask the Training Co-ordinator for a lift. Fuel vouchers are available for trips of more than 40km for all vehicles involved with car pooling.