The tramping community is mystified over the deaths of two men in Tararua Forest Park.
According to police, the men, ages 32 and 39, were on an overnight tramp to Alpha Hut from the Waiohine Gorge campsite on Saturday morning, and were due back on Sunday evening.
Indications are that the men did not arrive at Alpha Hut, though both men were located within a kilometre radius of the hut. One man was found by a member of the public on Monday morning, and the other was found a short distance away by Search and Rescue.
Wilderness roving editor Shaun Barnett is a Tararua tramping veteran, and has done the track to Alpha Hut several times.
“It’s steep terrain – the sort of terrain that you can get quite tired on. What’s puzzling is that the weather conditions were pretty good, although I understand it could have been very windy.”
Barnett says it’s possible the men died from hypothermia, based on the fact they were found quite far apart from one another.
“In the late stages of hypothermia, you’re not really aware of what’s going on. You wouldn’t be capable of looking after another person or even thinking about sticking together,” Barnett said.
Even though the weather was mostly fine when they were out, Barnett said it can change quickly on the tops. “It can be surprisingly cold, even if it looks sunny from Wellington,” he said, adding that the windchill can be significant.
“It seems to have really shocked and surprised the tramping community. These were younger guys, in their 30s, that’s often your peak age for tramping because you’ve got a bit of experience behind you, but you still have really good stamina.”
The track to Alpha Hut is part of the Southern Crossing route; it’s approximately 11km from Waiohine Campsite to Alpha Hut. DOC deems the track for advanced trampers only.
The police have not released details on where the men were found.