Weather hampers search for climbers trapped on New Zealand mountain

Other News Materials 16 August 2008 02:35 (UTC +04:00)

The fates of six Australian mountaineers, believed to be trapped in New Zealand's Southern Alps, remained unknown on Saturday as atrocious weather prevented search and rescue efforts, the dpa reported.

The group of four men and two women from Sydney are thought to have activated an emergency beacon late Thursday, but heavy snow, low clouds and extreme avalanche risks have prevented a full-scale air- and-ground search.

A Rescue Centre spokesman said it was not confirmed that the emergency beacon had been triggered by the climbing party, but the Australians were the only people who had logged intentions to climb in the region with the Department of Conservation at Mount Cook village.

Brief breaks in the weather on Friday afternoon enabled a fixed- wing aircraft and a helicopter to make short passes over the area where the beacon was believed to have been activated, but the flights revealed nothing, news reports said.

A helicopter with a specialist alpine rescue team is standing by in the village at the foot of 3,745-metre Mount Cook, awaiting improved conditions to take off.

The group, reported to be aged between 30 and 45, were believed to be attempting a traverse of the Sealy Range, which rises to 2,637 metres in the Mount Cook National Park.