It was suppose to be a ten day hunting trip in Fiordland, but only managed to last ten hours.
The helicopter dropped me off (@ 08:OOam) at the top basin that feeds Caswell sound and I had planned to slowly walk down to base camp over the next three to four days and meet with the rest of the party as I was hunting these first few days alone.
Weather was fair with patches of mist and drizzle, my last time check was l pm as this is when I had some lunch and tried to contact the others on VHF radio as we had agreed to check in with each other a 1300 and 2100 each day, But I quickly realised this would be a waste of time as VHF are a line of sight radio and the others had been dropped in separate valleys.
Some time after lunch I was walking down a hill toward a ridge that I thought would be a good place to camp for the first night, then both feet slipped out from underneath me and I Landed on my bum this drove my pack up and as my knife was on my hip belt, the handle dug into one of my ribs and cracked it.
At this point I dropped my rifle and slid downhill some thirty odd meters to a small but not insignificant drop off into a creek bed, the last thing I remember is saying (@#€% this is going hurt..!
When I came to as I have no idea how long I was out for, I first lifted my head and thought Hell that was lucky as my head had landed in the rocks only 3 inches from the water, As I lifted my body I could fell my rib was cracked/broken and thought that hurts but I can carry on and live with that it was this point I moved my legs and said hello that's searing pain.
On looking down its quite unnerving to look at your leg going in one direction and your foot in a completely different direction.
At this point I thought I'm buggered and need help, during the slide and fall my pack sustained some damage but stayed with me which was lucky for me as my Fastfind PLB was in it. I pulled it out turned it on and sat it on the rocks giving it as clear a view of the sky as I could a little light flashed on it but this just meant that it was turned on, after watching it For about five minutes I thought God I hope it's working.
Then only after about ten minutes there were another series of light flashes, so matching theses to the cover it meant GPS SIGNAL SENT OK. Relief..!
Only an hour after I pushed the button I heard the helicopter arrive in the area, because of the low vis it still took him 20 minutes to get to me, two guys jumped out and came over to me, we had a quick discussion about what injuries I had then it has off with boot to brace my ankle up.
One of the men shot up the hill to get my rifle, but came back and said he can't find it and would have to leave it behind, luckily the pilot could see it and radioed to say where it was.
Soon after the rifle turning up the pilot radioed to say the weather was about to turn pear shaped and we had to leave now, so the paramedic turned to me and said normally I would put you in a stretcher and put you in the chopper all nice and comfortable but today we are just going to pick you up throw you in and get the hell out of here, and it probably going to hurt like hell. Is that OK?
I don't care lets go I said. As we were flying out we got into some clear air so the pilot landed in the bottom of the valley and repositioned everyone so all were comfortable and we carried on to Te Anau.
Lessons learnt. Keep the Fastfind PLB on you, as I was lucky not to lose my pack, and take it with you regardless how close civilisation you are as it does not take much to make you completely incapacitated.
Bruce's story a few days later
After the chopper dropped us off the plan was to hunt the tops and quietly make our way down the valley to base camp in about three days time to meet up with the others.
The first day we had a good look around, but no sighting of any deer.
Day two, we spent the whole day in the tent as the rain had set in at 9pm the night before. Day three, the rain has finally stopped, back to hunting, but nothing seen.
Day four, more looking for animals, some sign, starting to think its Death Valley
Day five, we came down out of the basins and into the valley floor, it's getting late in the day but only a couple of hours walk to base camp and see a lot of fresh animal sign around the lake edge and flats, so very encouraged by all this sign that we decide to camp here by the lake and head to base camp in the morning.
I admit I have been told on several occasions "In Fiordland don't camp near water". So we crossed a small ankle deep stream to a nice little clearing next to a bluff face about 30 meters from the lake edge.
Well that night it rained in biblical proportions, at about 1 am we woke to the sensation of floating, then it was a mad scramble to pack and grab gear that is floating away and try and move to higher ground which proved difficult as the lake had risen 1.5m. The ankle deep stream the night before was now a RAGING River and because of the bluff there was no way to climb out.
So the option was to wade through waist deep water along the bluff edge to find higher ground, eventually there came a point where the bluff met the river so there was nowhere to go apart from a small island about the size of a kitchen table, so at this stage about 5am, painted into a corner, cold, wet and hungry with hypothermia starting to set in and the kitchen table starting to shrivel in size the first moment of clarity arrived. Activate the Fastfind PLB.
Soon we heard the welcom sound of the chopper arriving overhead. As there was nowhere to land it used the winch to lift us out. After the extraction it was then up to base camp to inform the last two Hunting party members that everyone had now been air lifted out with either broken or battered ego and did they want their chopper to come in a few days early to collect them, "Yes please, let's get out of here."
My advice, always carry a Fastfind PLB and don't underestimate Fiordland..!