Monday, 5 January 2009
Final bid to find tramper's body
Wanaka Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader Gary Dickson questions Irina Yun's decision to ignore warnings.
Tuesday 6 January 2009
Wanaka police and search teams will today make a final attempt to find the body of missing tramper Irina Yun.
Yun, 36, of Auckland, is believed to have drowned while crossing a river in Mount Aspiring National Park.
She was last seen on Wednesday while trying to cross the Cascade Saddle.
Yun's pack was found yesterday about 300m downstream of the Dart Hut, her intended destination after leaving the Aspiring Hut.
The Wanaka police search and rescue co-ordinator, Sergeant Aaron Nicholson, said the pack's condition showed it was torn from Yun by the force of the water, confirming fears she was caught while trying to cross a river.
The Otago Regional Council advised search co-ordinators that at the time the Dart River was flowing at 700 cubic metres a second, 10 times its normal low flow of 70 cumecs.
The search will focus on the area where the pack was found, with dogs and swift-water experts to be brought in when the weather allowed.
Nicholson said the chances of finding the body were slim.
"The gorge area in which the pack was found is basically a huge jumble of massive rocks and white water, and there is every chance the body is buried under silt or trapped well below the surface," he said.
Three teams of searchers and two helicopters began checking rivers in the area on Sunday afternoon and continued yesterday.
Wanaka's Alpine Cliff Rescue team leader, Gary Dickson, said: "We're not sure which one she has fallen in, but it's probably the first one down the Dart Valley. The rivers would have been raging by the time she got there.
"She wasn't particularly savvy with water, so it would be a major obstacle for her."
Commercial jet-boat operators in the Glenorchy area, at the head of Lake Wakatipu, have been asked to monitor the river.
Dickson questioned Yun's decision to head into the area after warnings from a hut warden and three hikers who met Yun after they had turned back.
He described the area as being of "reasonably challenging tramping terrain" and unsuitable for those who normally used walking tracks or by those on their own.
A Department of Conservation park map warns the route "is very steep and exposed and can be potentially dangerous in wet, windy or snowy conditions".
Yun had no emergency locator beacon or other communication device, and was not carrying a tent.
"If you're feeling tired and you get to the point where she got to, you have to make decisions about rivers and bad weather," Dickson said.
"It's raining, cold and windy, and you've got to be on top of your game, so it depends on the amount of energy you've got left, how fit you are, and what you're wearing in these conditions, and this is how your decision-making process starts getting compromised.
"But this is why there's search and rescue. It would be nice if people didn't do this. They have their schedule and try to apply it to the back country rather than listen to advice."
Yun moved to New Zealand five years ago from Kazakhstan. She reportedly climbed in the mountains of her homeland and had visited Mount Aspiring National Park once before.
She left her four-year-old daughter in Auckland, where her former partner lives.
Thanks to the Christchurch Press for permiussion to use this article.
My comment: Yesterday I was hopeful Irina would be found alive. But when I read the words "the pack's condition showed it was torn from Yun by the force of the water, confirming fears she was caught while trying to cross a river" I was devastated. Having crossed the Dart River in flood coming out of the Olivine Ice Plateau at the Rock Burn, I know how dangerous these rivers are to cross when in flood, by a lone person. New Zealand's mountain terrain is unforgiving in bad weather, and it appears Irina made some mistakes. What a waste of such talent, energy and potential. My wife is from Kazakhstan too so I feel an affinity with this women mountaineer who was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a city flanked by the mighty Tien Shan mountains. My condolences go out to her family.