Man 'unprepared' on fatal hike in Tasmania

An elderly man who set off on a month-long solo walk in Tasmanian wilderness has been declared dead.
An elderly man who set off on a month-long solo walk in Tasmanian wilderness has been declared dead.

An adventurous septuagenarian who vanished in Tasmania's harsh southwest wilderness has been declared dead by a coroner who highlighted a woeful preparation to go hiking in the area.

James Hugh McLean, 76, set off for a month-long solo walk in the South West National Park in November 2018 but never returned.

In findings published on Friday, coroner Simon Cooper found Mr McLean had a low quality tent and sleeping bag, inadequate clothing and wet weather gear, and was not carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) despite his family's urgings.

Mr Cooper said while he was unable to conclusively determine how Mr McLean died, there was no evidence of anyone seeing him alive after November 13.

"It is very clear that Mr McLean was woefully ill-equipped for the bushwalk that he was undertaking," Mr Cooper wrote.

"There is no end of advice available from a variety of sources including the (Parks and Wildlife Service) website as to the appropriate equipment walkers should have."

An air and ground search of tracks and bushland failed to find any trace of Mr McLean after he didn't finish his walk when expected in December.

He was described by the coroner as an adventurous spirit but someone who often found himself in challenging situations while hiking.

On a walk in October not long before his disappearance, park rangers found Mr McLean disorientated and without food and gas for his cooker.

He was dropped off by a friend near the starting point of his final walk and was last seen on November 13 by a river guide, who said he appeared ill and not in a stable mindset.

Weather records showed there were large falls of rain and snow in the area where Mr McLean was hiking.

"The weather is likely to have been a factor contributing to his death, possibly due to hypothermia," said Mr Cooper, who added there was nothing to suggest suspicious circumstances.

Mr McLean's sisters told the coroner he ignored their advice to carry a PLB and his behaviour had become increasingly risky.

Mr Cooper said all walkers in Tasmania should heed advice to carry PLBs.

Australian Associated Press