Alpine areas present special safety issues, particularly in winter. This page outlines some of the precautions you should take when visiting these areas.
Be well prepared
If you're going into the backcountry:
- Know where you are going and never go alone.
- Take a topographic map and a compass and be sure you know how to use them.
- Make sure you have at least three people in your group – if there is an emergency, at least one can go for help, while the other stays with the injured or ill person.
- Every trip should include at least one experienced person in the group who can guide and assist others.
- Ensure that everyone in your group has researched the trip and planned ahead.
- Check weather forecasts and local park conditions and modify your plans accordingly.
- Check directional, warning and advisory signs.
- Make sure every member of your group has:
- Warm clothing
- Sleeping bag appropriate to the conditions
- A waterproof jacket with a hood and waterproof overpants
- A warm hat
- Plenty of food and drink
- A first aid kit and a bivouac bag or space blanket
- Give complete route details of where you are going to close relatives or friends, or the police. Tell them your:
- Destination and intended route
- Alternative destination in case of bad weather
- Equipment list
- Any special medical conditions group members have, for example diabetes or asthma
- When you expect to get back
- Remember to tell your friend or relative when you do return or, if you are overdue, to phone them from the first phone box or police station you come to.
- Protect your skin from sunburn by using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing and a hat.
Be water smart
- Be self-sufficient with drinking water. Carry in enough water or ensure you have the equipment and knowledge to make untreated water safe for drinking. Be aware that there is not always water available.
Drinking untreated water such as creek water, bore water, or sometimes even rainwater, can lead to illnesses including gastroenteritis. Natural water sources should be used with caution and water treatment methods used to make water safe to drink. Remember, think before you drink and treat the water if you are unsure.
- Weather can change very rapidly in the mountains.
- The alpine area of Kosciuszko National Park experiences extreme weather conditions. A winter storm can bring wind gusts of 150 kilometres per hour and potentially one metre of snow.
- Do not head off into the alpine backcountry with bad weather (low pressure system) approaching.
- Mobile phones have patchy coverage within Kosciuszko National Park. Cold weather can severely affect batteries.
- GPS (Global Positioning System) devices use a satellite network to provide you with your location. To be of real use, they must be used with topographic maps and a compass. Cold can affect batteries.
- Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) and Emergency Position Indicating Response Beacons (EPIRBs) and are available for hire as an added safety precaution for bushwalkers. If you're in the bush a lot, consider buying one. Otherwise, Kosciuszko National Park hires out PLBs to bushwalkers for a small fee - contact the Snowy Region Visitor Centre for more information.
- Remember the emergency beacon is to be used as a last resort only. Your initial distress alert should still be made by telephone, radio or other direct communication if possible.
- Additional information about PLBs and EPIRBs can be found at the Australian Maritime Safety Authority web site on distress beacons or phone 1300 361 967 for contact details for NPWS offices.
- Please note that technology will not guarantee your safety. Even if you set off a PLB or EPIRB in an emergency, mountain weather can mean that helicopters may not be able to fly and ground searchers may be hampered by bad weather conditions.
- Carry a tent if you are going into the backcountry.
- For winter camping, you need a quality mountain tent that will handle strong winds and heavy snow loads.
- Mountain tents can be hired.
- You'll need a snow shovel for construction and ski stock for ventilation hole. Keep the shovel inside the snow cave.
- Advantages: Can provide complete protection from extreme weather; remains at a constant temperature just above 0°C.
- Disadvantages: You're likely to get very wet during construction. Can take 2-4 hours to construct and uses up lots of energy.
- Advantages: Can provide complete protection from extreme weather.
- Disadvantages: Can take 2-5 hours to build, difficult for the inexperienced.
- Ventilation in shelters is critical, whether in a snow cave, igloo or tent. It needs to be checked regularly, particularly in windy/snowy weather.
- There are 2 dangers. Both can be fatal:
- Inadequate ventilation can cause a shortage of oxygen.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning can be caused by incomplete combustion of stove fuel.
- A number of huts in Kosciuszko National Park were destroyed by the 2003 bushfires - many of them have been rebuilt, including Boobee, Brook's, Delany's, O'Keefes, Paton's, Pretty Plain, Broken Dam and Old Geehi.
- Huts are for emergency shelter only.
- Don't rely on finding or staying in a hut. Bad weather or the fitness/skills/health of your party might prevent you from reaching the hut.
If lost or injured
- In cold and/or wet conditions inadequate clothing, tiredness and insufficient food can combine to cause a lowering of normal body temperature (hypothermia) which can, at its worst, result in collapse or death if untreated.
- Victim is exhausted, lags behind, stumbles, may have slurred speech and appear drunk, and is reluctant to keep walking or skiing.
- Victim is cold to touch, pulse is slow and shallow. They may be difficult to reason with.
- Be aware, signs of hypothermia are often mistaken for fatigue.
- Treat the victim immediately by providing shelter and warmth with warm, dry clothes, sleeping bag or shared body warmth. Warm the person from the inside out - avoid excessive external heat such as placing them near a fire or rubbing the skin. Give warm, sweet tea if the person is conscious.
- Let their body temperature rise gradually and allow them to rest.
For more tips and information on staying safe in national parks, visit the Park Safety webpage.
Page last updated: 01 March 2011