Time ‘critical’ in missing minister search

Water and Tourism Minister Tim Holding disappeared after setting off to the summit of Victoria’s second highest peak, Mount Feathertop, on Sunday, after spending the night in a hut.

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Bush Search and Rescue convener Frank Zgoznick said a 14-strong search party would leave for the summit, 230km northeast of Melbourne, on foot on Monday afternoon.

“Every hour in this environment is important and we’ll try to get up there as quickly as possible in the circumstances,” Mr Zgoznick said.

Poor visibility is preventing access to the area by air.

With snow and ice on the mountain and the temperature around freezing, Mr Holding needed to be found soon, Mr Zgoznick said.

“(It’s) difficult, it’s a very tough terrain up there and we’ve got a lot of snow up there on the mountain at the moment,” he told reporters at the Bright Police Station.

Holding ‘an experienced hiker’

“It would be very cold if you’re standing around or if you’re lying on the ground, you’re going to get very cold very quickly so hopefully he’s found some sort of way to cover himself and to keep off the snow in order to keep warm.”

Mr Zgoznick said the searchers hoped to make it to the summit by nightfall so that they could begin searching in daylight.

It was hoped Mr Holding, an experienced hiker who was well-equipped for his trip, would be found some time on Monday or by Tuesday morning.

The search party would work in groups of four and was equipped with supplies for three days, said Mr Zgoznick, who has been involved in mountain searches for 25 years.

“It’s pretty serious, it’s been icy up the summit in the last few days so we’re taking crampons and harnesses and axes,” he said.

“We are looking to find a person alive and what we try to do is make sure the ground between each person is covered in a very effective manner so we spread out about 20 to 30 metres apart and search in a line,” he said.