Skip to comments.Icy conditions hinder search for [Australian government] minister
Posted on 08/30/2009 11:43:00 PM PDT by BlackVeil
Poor weather is hampering the search effort in the Victorian alpine region for State Water and Tourism Minister Tim Holding.
Mr Holding has not been heard from since Saturday evening when he headed out on a solo trek to Mount Feathertop, north-east of Melbourne.
It is Victoria's second highest mountain and the climb is dangerous at the best of times.
Police are not confident of finding Mr Holding today because of the weather.
There is low cloud cover and constant drizzle, with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius.
Helicopters are unable to join the search because of the low cloud cover and the Bureau of Meteorology says weather conditions are expected to worsen this evening.
Mr Holding set off on his own on Saturday and reached a hut on Saturday evening.
The Victorian Cabinet Minister sent a text message to his partner saying he had arrived.
He was expected home yesterday afternoon.
Police say Mr Holding told fellow hikers yesterday morning he was planning to leave.
Senior weather forecaster Peter Newham says the temperature plummeted to -7 degrees Celsius on Saturday night and early yesterday.
"If anything, the conditions will deteriorate a bit during today with those north-westerly winds freshening," he said.
Acting Superintendent Wayne Rotherham from Victoria Police says the alarm was raised when resort management reported the minister's car was still at the base of the mountain last night.
"We had a team get in there at 5:00am (AEST) this morning. It took them five hours to walk from the initial car park," he said.
"They got to the hut and Mr Holding wasn't there. Since we've released it via the media, we've had someone come forward who saw him at the hut at 7:00am yesterday and from that we have a direction of travel from where he has walked, so we are sending the searchers up there as we speak."
It is believed Mr Holding was headed towards the summit of the mountain.
In the winter months, the peak of Mt Feathertop is thick with snow and the steep hike is also icy, making it a mission only for the most experienced of hikers.
The convenor of volunteer group Bush Search and Rescue Victoria, Frank Zgoznik, says it is a dangerous place to be in bad conditions.
"There is a high risk of accidents on the actual mountain, on the summit itself," he said.
"There is a large overhang of snow that we call a cornice and it has trapped a number of people over the decades.
"The cornice can collapse underneath them and send them down the side of the mountain very quickly, leading to either death or injury."
Acting Superintendent Rotherham says it is believed Mr Holding was seen walking north from the hut yesterday morning, but there are several ways he could have gone.
"Once you get up the top there are rich tracks," he said.
"You can sort of go north, south, east or west, so from the hut we are spreading the searches from those directions so we are just trying to cover all areas."
If Mr Holding has not been injured, there is every reason to believe he is OK. The 37-year-old is said to be fit.
He is an experienced hiker and a former army reservist.
There are about 18 people in the search team, but low clouds have reduced visibility to less than 40 metres, making the use of a helicopter impossible.
Acting Superintendent Rotherham says there is some mobile phone coverage on the mountain.
"We have been attempting to get through on the mobile but there is no coverage," he said.
"We did get a signal emitted from the telephone late last night. We are just trying to track all that down now."
As Water Minister, Mr Holding is in charge of some of the State Government's most controversial projects, but has a reputation for thriving on a high workload and being highly dedicated to politics.
He has held several senior portfolios and is seen as a rising star in the party.
Premier John Brumby is hoping for the best.
But he says his initial optimism about Mr Holding's welfare is being tested.
"I was obviously very hopeful this morning that Tim would walk out and that has not been the case, and so we are increasingly concerned about his welfare and his wellbeing," he said.
It is believed Mr Holding was carrying a thermal sleeping bag, a tent and food.
They need to find him now - in an hour, the light starts fading.
Let us all say a prayer for the searchers, that they may be given strength and guidance.
Why would a govt minister go, and/or be allowed to go, on a solo trek up a dangerous mountain?
He’s probably in Argentina.
Apparently he likes hiking, and is very fit. But I agree, it is not wise.
He has good gear and protective clothing - but he has been out since Saturday. They got a helicopter up briefly during the afternoon. I think they should use dogs, to seek him out.
Prayers, of course - But it sounds like he is pretty geared up and knows the score - If he is dug in, there is a good chance he is alright. A few days in a snow cave may not be comfortable, but it is alot better than the alternative. There is good reason to hope.
It’s awfully nice for the mod’s to leave this in ‘breaking news’ for now. I bet the post gets removed from ‘breaking’ when the sun comes up in the states.
Are you kidding? Would that more had this kind of spirit.
I guess it will be removed. But this person is a public figure, after all.
That’s a challenging-looking mountain for a solo assault. I hope this guy is genuinely skilled.
There is low cloud cover and constant drizzle, with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius.Zero Celsius is 32°F; this is the end of August, usually a hot month, and yesterday morning it was 47°F when I got up. This morning it's in the same ballpark. Lousiest summer in recent memory.
Yes, but in Australia, it is winter. The months of June, July and August are winter time. September 21 (or 22?) is the first day of Spring, and December 21 is Summer Soltice.
They’re not called the ANTIpods for nothing!
Plus the toilets swirl in reverse there. All things Australian are fraught with risk!
Lets hope he made it back to the hut
More here with links, including info on his training