Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
US students survive 9 days in New Zealand bush
Display Avatars Sort By:
eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
US students survive 9 days in New Zealand bush on 06/12/2012 15:59:59 MDT Print View

more at link ...

Two U.S. students trapped in the New Zealand wilderness by a snowstorm trekked back out to safety after surviving their nine-day ordeal by rationing their meager supplies of trail mix and warming themselves in hot springs.

Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth, both 21, returned to the city of Christchurch on Monday after meeting up with members of a search team — famished but otherwise in good shape, police said.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: US students survive 9 days in New Zealand bush on 06/12/2012 17:08:45 MDT Print View

was wondering when this would show up... The author would do well to read his own quotes then adjust his story to match.
"meager rations of trail mix" from "prepared for their hike out by cooking up a "good meal" of rice, marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate, he said.", "biscuits and jelly"

Also, wtf does the little blurb at the bottom about other students in a car crash?

Thing i got from it..

"he said. "We could have been more prepared, but in the end we were prepared enough to walk ourselves out."

They pretty much did everything right.. stayed in place where they were safe and could hunker down. Didn't try anything stupid to get out in an unsafe way.

Nathan Stuart

Locale: Hunter Valley - Australia
NZ backpackers on 06/12/2012 17:58:00 MDT Print View

Sadley in NZ there are a lot of underprepared, underfunded backpackers touring around. Crap gear, minimal food and no $$ and they just trudge off into the wilds.
I have seen this again and again over 3 tramping trips to NZ. Some will even ask to re-use your old teabag..... and theres 4 people sharing the dregs.....

This is common there but the sad thing is often with a worse outcome.

These guys looked to have been prepared but maybe they didn't heed the weather forcaste ?? and this could have been avoided. ??
West coast weather can be.... not so much fun and hard to predict though.
At least they are fine.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Re: Re: US students survive 9 days in New Zealand bush on 06/12/2012 18:47:47 MDT Print View

Couple of other links:

My own thoughts on this are that in general they managed the situation they were in well. Sure some things could of been done better but they survived and were able to walk out in good health.

They had told someone where they were going and (very roughly) when they were expected back (could of been a little more precise). Their contact person did contact the Police somewhat late (3-5 days after they due out). It is unclear from the media reports how long their trip was supposed to be, but I would guess that it was between 3-6 days. A weather forecast in NZ for longer than 3-4 days isn't worth much as NZ being largely a maritime country the weather is very changeable. So one normally should be prepared for the worst.

The couple wisely decided not to try and cross a flooded river, rather sit the weather out and wait until conditions were better. Having the natural hot pools certainly would helped. From my conversations with SAR people in the past, they don't tend to get upset at people who play it safe with rivers.

This link is a trip report from another party who was at the same place the previous week:

One other piece of information that hasn't being reported about is that DOC had removed a swingbridge in the Otehake valley this year due to concerns over the bridge condition and maintenance costs and the bridge has not replaced due to low numbers of people travelling in the valley, although there remains a couple of huts in the region for the meantime, having being maintained by volunteers. I'm not sure if the bridge had being in place that the couple could of got to it and used it to get out.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
US students survive 9 days in NZ bush on 06/13/2012 10:21:29 MDT Print View

I agree with the others, from what we know of the story, it looks like the hikers more or less did everything right. Stayed put, rationed their food, and opted to hike out under their own power once the conditions settled down. Presumably they could have given a more detailed itinerary on when they planned to return from their trip, but otherwise, it seems like they kept a cool head about their situation.

I spent about 9 months in NZ spread out over two back to back NZ winters a few years back and did a lot of winter tramping, primarily on the South Island. Like one of the other posters said, a weather forecast going out more than 3 days or so, especially on the south island in the winter, is worthless. I recall getting caught by surprise by the weather on a few occasions either by a storm moving in early or hitting with a lot more punch than had been expected. I spent a few unplanned nights out waiting for storms to settle down or river levels to subside.

Sitting in the various huts, reading the entries in the hut registers, there were numerous tales of unprepared, inexperienced, overly ambitious or just plain old unlucky trampers getting caught out in bad weather and/or making bad decisions that resulted in them needing to be rescued or at a minimum being supremely humbled by the forces of nature.

Alister R Barnes
(ARB) - F

Locale: Piha
Tramping in NZ on 06/13/2012 14:47:16 MDT Print View

This pair were very sensible. Unfortunately too many overseas visitors to NZ are not. They set off ill informed and ill equipped and often solo. Several die each year.

Even a party of two is not ideal for many areas.

The main tracks (as listed in Lonely Planet) are well maintained by DOC, with good bridges over rivers and good huts. Even then, weather can cause delays. Unfortunately these tracks are heavily used, so much so that NZ's tend not to use them. The more adventuresome visitors realise that, but unfortunately do not have the necessary knowledge and experience to stay out of trouble. Even NZ's get caught at times. An eight day trip can easily turn into 14 days, and sitting next to a flooded river or below a snow filled pass is boring.

on the other hand, we feel very sorry about the students killed in a car crash on the way to the NI mountains, and particularly for the student driver. It was an easy mistake to make. It is compulsory to wear seat belts in NZ, and would have saved these lives in that accident had they been worn.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Gear inspection needed on 06/13/2012 23:05:29 MDT Print View

In several U.S. and Canadian parks backpackers and canoeists must have their gear and food supplies as well as hike route approved by park rangers before they can legally set out on the trail.

I once had a Yosemite ranger at White Wolf look at me W/ my pack on, ask me what I had in it and when I told him he said, "Good, enjoy your hike." Seems just looking at me and my pack and hearing me rattle off my gear list was plenty.

Maybe it will come to that on some of New Zealand's tracks.
I've seen eastern European young guys on the AT with "crap gear" but that's a tamer trail - usually, until an unusually big snowstorm hits. Then the rescues begin...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Gear inspection needed on 06/14/2012 00:53:14 MDT Print View

... and then we will have a Ranger who thinks a 50lb pack is required for a 3 day trip, telling someone with a UL kit that they can't hike the trail because they are 40lbs short.

To me it is all about personal responsibility and accountability, or a Darwin Award. Take your pick :)

Will Webster
Re: Re: Gear inspection needed on 06/14/2012 05:33:02 MDT Print View

"To me it is all about personal responsibility and accountability, or a Darwin Award. Take your pick :)"

That makes a lot of sense, right up until SAR volunteers have to leave their families to go out looking for someone.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Re: Re: Gear inspection needed on 06/14/2012 05:39:15 MDT Print View

Well let's hope that we never get to the point of DOC checking everybodys pack before going tramping. One of best things about tramping in new zealand is the relative freedom we have. Access to national parks is free and unregulated, tracks and huts are freely available to anyone. The culture of tramping has traditionally been one of self sufficiency and personal responsibility, and I wouldn't want that to change. DOC just don't have the staff or budget to do the checks anyway.

Edited by nzbazza on 06/14/2012 15:25:13 MDT.

Alister R Barnes
(ARB) - F

Locale: Piha
Survival in NZ on 06/14/2012 15:30:13 MDT Print View

Freedom do one"s thing is critical to NZ'ers, so pack checking would never happen. Its not the main tracks that are the problem. After all one track, (the Routeburn, a four day trip) has about 3200 people use it each year. It's little used in winter, being above snowline so in summer it is very populated. So the venturesome go elsewhere.

Actually, equipment and food is not usually the prime cause of deaths. It is simple inexperience of the conditions. Falls and drowning in rivers are the major ones.
For example one relatively easy pass has a steep snowgrass slope, which when wet is as slippery as ice. However poor equipment and a lack of food can lead to poor decision making, so the person takes risks when he should simply be waiting for conditions to improve.

There are good books on "how-to-safely" tramp NZ conditions available. If planning a freedom tramp here I suggest getting one. Conditions and dangers are significantly different from that found in Europe and the dryer parts of USA. DOC information centres are well worth a visit too.

Alister R Barnes
(ARB) - F

Locale: Piha
Survival in NZ on 06/14/2012 16:19:58 MDT Print View

Just in case you feel I am over emphasising the dangers, some years ago my wife was a member of a tramping party on which a friend of ours was killed in a fall when crossing a pass in good conditions.
Fortunately there were six in the group so two could go for help, 24 hours high speed tramp away, and the others stay to mark the area.
Had he been solo, The body would never have been found.
It can happen, even to the experienced, but the risks to the unprepared are so much greater.