Wednesday, 3 December 2008

THEY ARE ALIVE

AS I GO TO BED TONIGHT, MY PRAYERS AND THOUGHTS WILL BE GOING OUT tO KIYOSHI AND HIDEAKI. AT 10 PM TONIGHT THE WEATHER FORECAST WAS NOT GOOD AND RESCUERS SAID THE WEATHER MAY NOT BE SUITABLR FOR RESCUE UNTIL SATURDAY.
However, having worked in the 70s at Mt. Cook Aoraki in the rescue team, you can get those short breaks in the weather, long enogh to pluck people out to safety.
The two Japanese climbers stranded on Aoraki/Mt Cook have been named.
They are Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, 49, from Tokyo, the guide, and Hideaki Nara, 51, also from Tokyo.
A pack of emergency provisions and a radio were dropped to the pair this afternoon by a helicopter with Alpine Rescue team members aboard. ( SEE PHOTO LEFT)
Constable Brent Swanson said the helicopter left at 1.15pm with a pilot and two team members aboard and managed to get close enough to drop the pack but not land.
A person came out of the red tent searchers spotted yesterday and could be seen moving around.
The 70 litre pack containing emergency rations, a cooker and fuel and a radio with instructions in Japanese, landed right by the tent. Now the rescue centre is waiting for any radio messages.
A Department of Conservation officer who speaks Japanese has been calling on the radio included in the bag but there was no response.
The winds are still high in the rescue area where the two climbers have been trapped above 3700 metres since last week, and rescuers say it could be Saturday before they can reach the men.
Two helicopters searching for the pair yesterday morning spotted a red tent and a person believed to be one of the climbers waving from near the mountain's summit ridge.
However, they were unable to make a rescue because of the high winds and near zero visibility.
The two men, in their 40s, were due back at Mt Cook Village on Saturday. They were last seen on Friday when they were on the upper Empress Plateau.
Rescuers had hoped for a gap in the bad weather today to allow them to reach the men.
However, high winds were preventing helicopters from reaching the required level, Department of Labour spokeswoman Shirley Slatter said.
"We'd been watching it all night actually, but it was still too windy during the night. They (the helicopter crew) gave it a go at first light but they didn't get that close."
Ms Slatter said there was a slim chance the weather would calm down tomorrow evening, but it was more likely to be Friday or even Saturday before a helicopter could get in.
She said the situation would continue to be closely monitored and a rescue mission would be launched as soon as it was safe.
"They have a tent, they've got good gear and we know they have good sleeping bags."
It is thought the second climber may have been still inside the tent when searchers passed by yesterday.
"You can make all those presumptions, but at this stage we don't actually know," said police constable Stu Mori yesterday.
"He may be ill, he may be injured. He may not have had enough time to get his boots on and get out [of the tent]."
Mr Mori said one of the climbers was known to be experienced - having climbed Mt Cook and other mountains around the world. It is not known if the second climber is experienced.
Mt Cook guide Trev Streat said the pair could be reasonably comfortable because it had not been excessively cold over the last few days, but it would depend on how they were equipped.
"If they have got dry sleeping bags and good shelter they should be able to sit out a few days in a storm."
Rather than staying in the tent - exposed to the high winds - "a snow cave or hiding out in a crevasse is probably a better idea".
Mr Mori said the extent of the pair's supplies was unclear.
"We don't know what food and rations [they have], we don't know the medical conditions. It's an unknown factor at this stage."
It was presumed the pair had been on the mountain since Friday.
"Every trip is different. But all climbers are prepared to spend a night out, or two or three nights out, because ... that is the nature of the beast with our changeable weatherR

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