POLICE have urged bushwalkers intending to visit the Grampians to stick to defined tracks after conducting the second rescue mission in less than a week near Dunkeld.
Two Melbourne men were stranded on a ledge of Mount Sturgeon for more than seven hours after they veered off the marked route and took what they thought was a short cut.
About 50 people turned out to assist after the pair telephoned for help mid afternoon Saturday.
Police search and rescue squad members completed the rescue by pulling them to safety and guiding them to the bottom of the mountain just before midnight.
It was the second successive weekend that Sergeant Paul Stanhope of Hamilton has had to co-ordinate a search and rescue response to a distress call.
The previous weekend a Sydney musician who strayed off course at Mount Abrupt spent the night in bushland until he was located by searchers the following morning.
Yesterday Sergeant Stanhope said he first spoke to the Melbourne men about 2.30pm and determined they were stuck on a ledge, unable to move up or down.
“They went off the tracks to do their own thing,” he said.
“About a third of the way down they jumped on to the ledge about a metre wide and realised they were stuck.
“Fortunately they had adequate clothing and a litre of water between them.
“We had the HEMS4 helicopter from Warrnambool assess the situation, but it was deemed too risky to attempt to winch them out in a harness.
“The men were happy to wait for ground crews to reach them.”
Sergeant Stanhope said dozens of State Emergency Service and Country Fire Authority members from as far as Warrnambool, Hamilton and Stawell arrived to help.
“The turnout was massive. We did 32 meals for helpers and many more were there as well,” he said. “A team of CFA and SES members led by Hamilton CFA captain Wayne Nagorcka went up first and stayed with the men until the police climbers arrived.
“There was a second team of rope-trained people under Henry Barton of Warrnambool CFA on standby.
“We are very grateful for all the assistance.”
Sergeant Stanhope said the incidents served as a stark reminder to people to stick to defined walking tracks, carry plenty of water and be prepared for weather changes.