Dear South­land Lo­ca­tor Bea­cons Trust,

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

We hired one of your bea­cons be­fore a walk in the wilder­ness area near Mt As­pir­ing, and were un­for­tu­nate enough to have to use it - and in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate we had it with us. My hus­band, Steven Niederer, was in­jured the ac­ci­dent and wrote the de­scrip­tion be­low in the hopes that it may be use­ful to you to use as a tes­ti­mo­nial. I would also like to add my thanks to your trust for pro­vid­ing bea­cons at such rea­son­able rates. We would have been in real trou­ble with­out it, and for $35 for the week noone should head out into wilder­ness ar­eas with­out one. to­wards Park Pass, hav­ing crossed Fiery Col and Cow Sad­dle the day be­fore. For the first part of the morn­ing we were walk­ing along deer tracks through low scrub and beech for­est on a gen­tle slope be­side Hid­den Falls creek. The track we had been fol­low­ing led us be­tween two car sized boul­ders sep­a­rated by 2 feet to pro­vide a com­fort­able path.

As I walked be­tween the two boul­ders I heard a crack as my foot went through some dead wood ly­ing on the for­est floor. As my foot went through the wood I heard the sound of move­ment and a rock pre­vi­ously sup­ported by the log on the up­hill boul­der came away. The rock rolled down the short dis­tance to reach me and crushed my arm and hips on the boul­der be­low. The dis­lodged rock then rolled onto my leg, crush­ing my thigh onto a sharp part of the lower boul­der, slic­ing a wide deep gash down to the mus­cle. Luck­ily the rock con­tin­ued to roll off me and down the slope, leav­ing me free but badly hurt and in shock.

As I screamed in pain, the first thing that went through my mind was to get help, as it was pretty clear we were in a world of trou­ble. For­tu­nately we had taken ad­vice from friends, fam­ily, our ice axe/cram­pon in­struc­tor and peo­ple we met on the bus from the air­port and rented an emer­gency lo­ca­tor bea­con from the DoC of­fice for a mere $35. My wife set off the emer­gency lo­ca­tor bea­con within sec­onds of the ac­ci­dent oc­cur­ring. Fol­low­ing her Duke of Ed­in­burgh train­ing she bound my leg, moved me onto a ther­mo­mat, cov­ered me in my sleep­ing bag, heated me up some ap­ple tea and laid out my bright orange pack liner on a wide rock out­crop next to the river to mark us out for the helicopter.

I lay shak­ing on the ther­mo­mat look­ing up at the sky. Af­ter 10 min­utes ev­ery sound I heard seemed to be that of an ap­proach­ing helicopter and res­cue. The bea­con had a re­as­sur­ing green light con­firm­ing a strong GPS sig­nal and as we waited we hoped that the tech­nol­ogy was work­ing. At this stage it was a good two days walk out that crossed rivers and two more passes, with only the two of us in our party the only op­tion was to wait, rely on the bea­con and hope for a helicopter.

Af­ter only an hour and a half the low thump­ing sound of a helicopter could be heard above the noise of the nearby wa­ter­fall. The thump­ing grew louder and louder be­fore the helicopter passed above us flash­ing over me through a clear­ing in the trees. There was brief mo­ment of fear as the sound of the helicopter dropped away af­ter the first pass. This was re­placed by ju­bi­la­tion as the noise re­turned and the helicopter cir­cled back round, hov­er­ing above us to con­firm that we had been sighted.

Mike and Gary, the two man search and res­cue team, were with us shortly. With calm blokey en­thu­si­asm and en­cour­age­ment they strapped up my arm, which had some­how been bro­ken, okayed my wife’s ban­dage on my leg and sup­ported me down to the flat rock out­crop by the river. They then col­lected all the gear and bits of ban­dage, as al­ways ap­ply­ing the fun­da­men­tal tramp­ing ax­iom pack it in pack it out. The helicopter landed el­e­gantly, bal­anced on the rocky out­crop, and we were whisked away to the safety of Wanaka, in fact fly­ing over the route we had been plan­ning to walk. There we were met by a helicopter from the Otago Res­cue Helicopter Trust that car­ried me in to Dunedin Hos­pi­tal. I re­ceived ex­cel­lent care in hos­pi­tal and spent New Year’s Eve in surgery hav­ing my cut cleaned and a metal plate put into my arm.

The walk we at­tempted had a num­ber of unique chal­lenges but it was when walk­ing through beech for­est, which we have done on count­less pre­vi­ous hikes, that our ac­ci­dent hap­pened. You do not know where or when an ac­ci­dent will oc­cur but you can plan for what hap­pens when it does. If you have a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent in the back­coun­try, then with­out an emer­gency lo­ca­tor bea­con you have no op­tions - with a bea­con we were res­cued in un­der two hours. Best $40 I ever spent.

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