A hunter has been rescued after spending 10 hours trying to find a route down to a river valley in a remote part of New Zealand's South Island. Having reviewed his options he activated his Fast Find PLB. Within a few hours 2 rescue helicopters had arrived, but due to the hazards of operating in the dark in difficult terrain returned at first light the following morning to complete the rescue.
"After 4 days hunting on the tops above the bushline in South Westland I attempted to drop down a ridgeline through thick bush towards the river valley. Despite my best effort with a map and compass I could not find a safe route down. I'd spent 10 hours climbimg in and out of some very serious bluffs and had not seen the sky for 6 hours due to the thickness of the bush and the steepness of the mountain.
2 hours before dark I found a semi-flat piece of ground about the size of a pool table. I considered my options. I was down to my last meal, had no water (but could collect it when it rained), was un-injured, had shelter in the form of an MSR Hubba hubba tent (which had saved my life 2 nights previously, see attached video). Deciding to hit the button on my PLB is no small thing. Alot of thoughts go through your mind but I knew I was out of options and any further attempt to climb down would result in the situation getting alot worse very fast. I fired 3 shots at 30 second intervals from my rifle to alert my hunting partner on the valley floor and he replied with a single shot confirming that he had heard my shots. This is a pre-PLB safety proceedure from the old days.
I activated the PLB, attached it to a tree branch and waited. As darkness approached I errected my tent as best I could on such a small piece of ground. 2 1/2 hours later I heard the first of 2 helicopters arrive and beging to seach for me. Things got dark fast and the helicopers left after confirming with my hunting partner that I had fired 3 shots and had enough equipment with me to spend another night in the bush. It was just to dark to attempt a pick up and I knew they would be back at first light in the morning.
The following morning and while still dark I packed up my equipment and waited to hear the helicopter come back up the valley. It hovered around me, getting within 1 meter of the scrub and ground but could not land because of the steepness of the terrain so I climbed onto the skid and clambered into the cockpit as the helicopter hovered above the ground. What a relief! This was an amazing piece of flying to witness and took real skill from the pilot.
Speaking to the Search and Rescue guys later they confirmed that I had done the right thing. 'Better a live person at the top of a cliff than a dead one at the bottom' they said."