An experienced hiker who set off a distress beacon in Victoria’s alps yesterday afternoon was found safe on Friday 13 May 2011.
Police found the 30-year-old Alphington man at 8.20am on Friday, 19 hours after he set off the distress signal on rugged Mount Shillinglaw, about 60 kilometres south of Mansfield.
Senior Sergeant Lyn Holland, from Mansfield police, said the man had become disoriented as freezing temperatures and snow descended on the mountain about 1pm on Thursday.
He had activated his distress beacon (EPIRB) and spend the night in sub-zero temperatures. Three Mansfield police officers hiked to his location this morning. He walked out with the police team. Police Search and Rescue provided backup for the rescue.
Bush Search and Rescue were not called out for this search.
There are a number of factors leading up to the beacon activation that may be of interest to the bushwalking community:
- The Alpine Walking Track in that area is extremely difficult to follow, with very thick regrowth. Hard walking and navigation. It appears to be non-existent and not marked over some sections.
- The walker was on his own
- The walker was not using an appropriate GPS device. A GPS application on his phone was not sufficiently accurate.
- The walker had 1:50,000 scale maps, which are less detailed that 1:25,000.
- The difficult section was undertaken during a period of bad weather with low visibility, and snowfalls.
- Once the walker lost contact with the track, he persevered for too long before deciding to retrace to get back to a known point.
- He made several attempt to return to his previous campsite at the crossing of the Black River, only to be blocked by small cliffs and unfamiliar terrain. Further attempts to relocate the track failed.
- The weather was bad with snowfalls and low visibility
- The walker had sufficient food and appropriate clothing/equipment
- The walker was not injured, however believed if he persevered in those conditions, the risk of injury was high.
Emergency beacons should only be activated when the user perceives a “threat of grave and imminent danger”.
In this case, there are many things the walker could have done to avoid being in the situation requiring his decision to activate his distress beacon. However once in that situation and lost, he made the correct choice. Once the beacon was activated, he remained at the location, which enabled a reasonably simple solution to the situation.