Briton missing on New Zealand peak

A large-scale search and rescue operation is being carried out in New Zealand for a British walker who went missing while climbing a mountain.

James Esbester, from Waterlooville, Hampshire, began his walk on the Wangapeka track in Kahurangi National Park, near Nelson on the country's South Island last Wednesday.

He wrote his intention to climb to the summit of Mount Luna on Thursday in the log book of an accommodation hut but has not been seen since, according to police.

On Saturday, a tramping party arrived at Stone Hut, where they found Mr Esbester's note and his equipment. That group walked on and alerted police to his disappearance at 10pm.

Sergeant Mike Fitzsimons, of Nelson Police, said a rescue helicopter with night vision equipment was immediately sent into the area.

He said 50 search and rescue personnel were currently involved in the operation.

This includes four dog teams and specialist cavers who are abseiling down bluffs.

Mr Fitzsimons said searchers had found indications that Mr Esbester might have climbed to the summit of Mt Luna and then deviated from his planned descent by taking the ridge to Biggs Tops.

He said: "We're currently re-visiting parts of Mt Luna and also exploring the bush on the south edges.

"We're also looking into the north-west and south-west edges of Biggs Topps. That's rather gnarly country."

Mr Fitzsimons said Mr Esbester's father, who is from Portsmouth, was flying out to join the search.

He added: "A helicopter with night vision equipment was deployed on Saturday night but was unable to operate on Sunday or Monday nights due to cloud cover.

"The helicopter will be used tonight if the weather is clear. The current forecast is indicating light rain for tonight."