Wānaka Search and Rescue (Wānaka SAR) had its annual training exercise earlier this month in anticipation of a busy summer ahead.
Wānaka SAR is one of the busiest backcountry search and rescue groups in New Zealand, averaging 45-55 operations over a busy year, mostly between the November to March period. Around 80 volunteers provide search and rescue support for any lost, missing or injured people in the Mount Aspiring National Park and the Wānaka lakes area, and are made up of highly-trained teams, each with their own specialisation.
Approximately 35 volunteers from the bush, alpine cliff rescue and incident management teams were in the field on Branches Station, near the head of the Shotover River, to practice their respective skills, utilise specialist equipment and induct a few new volunteers.
The field teams worked a scenario involving four missing hunters, who had all headed off in different directions. After their start positions were located and processed, tracks were found and followed for about 500m before various other visual and verbal search methods were utilised to to locate the missing hunters. Once found, all had injuries that required patient attention and careful handling as they were put into stretchers and lowered down tricky terrain until the exercise was completed. Meanwhile, the alpine cliff rescue team were operating high on the Tyndall Glacier practicing crevasse rescue techniques.
Wānaka SAR chairman, Aaron Nicholson, said the day was very successful by all accounts and the teams showed very good skills and professionalism in going about their tasks.