Po­lice warn of ‘back coun­try’ dan­gers

Mt Hotham Falls Creek - - FRONT PAGE - ByVANESSA BURGESS

ONE year af­ter two other men were res­cued and two snow­board­ers lost their lives, lo­cal po­lice are re­mind­ing skiers and snow­board­ers to take ex­treme care when head­ing out into back coun­try.

Weather in the high coun­try can change in an in­stant and Bright po­lice se­nior sergeant Doug In­coll said the one year an­niver­sary of two searches on Mt Bo­gong was a timely re­minder for peo­ple to take care in back coun­try ter­rain.

“The weather can change in an in­stant at this time of year, and although the two snow­board­ers who died did ev­ery­thing right, na­ture is a pow­er­ful force,” he said.

“It was an ex­tremely un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent, but it is a timely re­minder for peo­ple who are think­ing about head­ing into ex­treme back coun­try ter­rain.”

Snr Sgt In­coll urged back coun­try skiers, snow­board­ers and walk­ers to make sure they are car­ry­ing all of the ap­pro­pri­ate equip­ment, in­clud­ing epirbs and back up mo­bile phone bat­ter­ies.

“On these moun­tains, the weather con­di­tions can change very quickly and some­times un­ex­pect­edly – peo­ple need to be pre­pared for the worst,” he said.

“Cor­rect equip­ment should be car­ried, in­clud­ing an epirb, a smart­phone and back up bat­tery, GPS, enough food for their trip and changes of dry clothes.

“If peo­ple are camp­ing in the snow, they need to make sure they have the cor­rect sleep­ing equip­ment that is suit­able for the con­di­tions.”

Should bad weather roll in, Snr Sgt In­coll said peo­ple should be pre­pared to change their plans.

“Depend­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment they may be in peo­ple should be open to chang­ing their plans if the weather changes for the worse,” he said.

“We are hop­ing peo­ple will use com­mon sense and give ra­tio­nal thought to whether they should con­tinue or give it a miss.”

Winds can reach speeds of up to 130km/h and tem­per­a­tures can drop to -16 de­grees cel­sius in the Alpine ar­eas, and Snr Sgt In­coll said searches in back coun­try ter­rain also put ser­vice per­son­nel in the line of dan­ger.

“Back coun­try skiing and snow­board­ing is be­com­ing a more and more pop­u­lar pur- suit, and there will be more in­ci­dents of some kind as a di­rect pro­por­tion of the num­ber of peo­ple go­ing out,” he said.

“If peo­ple get lost, be­come stranded or ill, the Alpine Search and Res­cue team will do what­ever they can to find them, but it can put them in a dan­ger­ous po­si­tion.

“Search mem­bers need to have a se­ri­ous level of fit­ness, both men­tal and phys­i­cal and spend quite a lot of time train­ing in the ter­rain and en­vi­ron­ment of some­where like Mt Bo­gong.

“Our mes­sage is, think it through – it can go pear shaped in an in­stant and time is crit­i­cal if some­thing does go wrong up there.

“In win­ter we don’t have the lux­ury of time like we would in the warmer months – it could be a mat­ter of half-an-hour.”

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