Woman saved after month in New Zealand hills | News | DW | 25.08.2016
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Woman saved after month in New Zealand hills

New Zealand police have rescued a Czech woman who has spent several weeks alone in a remote mountainous region, after her companion died in a fall. The woman found a warden's hut and used it for shelter, officials say.

The Czech tourist was being treated for minor injuries and frostbite, but is otherwise in reasonably good health, Inspector Olaf Jensen said on Thursday.

"She's undergone quite a traumatic experience," he told a news conference.

The woman and her male traveling companion started along the 32-kilometer (20 mile) Routeburn hiking track in south New Zealand late July, but lost their way due to heavy snowfall in the remote area.

"They had become disoriented and were off the track," with snow covering the markers, Jensen said.

Her partner fell from a steep slope four days later, lethally injuring himself. The woman said she managed to reach him, but the man died soon after.

Drawing an 'H'

After spending three nights in the open, the woman found a ranger's hut with firewood and supplies at nearby Lake Mackenzie. The hut also had a radio, but the woman could not get it to work.

"Given her experience and the avalanche risk, she decided it was best for her safety to remain in the hut, and that was the correct decision to make," Jensen said.

The police inspector told journalists that the woman drew an "H'' in the snow outside to signal she needed help. However, hikers were avoiding the route due to the New Zealand winter.

"It was not passable," Jensen said. "It was really extreme conditions."

Dangerous climb

The authorities only sent out a search party after the Czech consulate raised the alarm on Wednesday. Rescuers located the couple's car and sent a police helicopter along the route, eventually locating the woman.

"It's obviously a very unusual case given the length of time that the female was in the hut," Jensen said.

"She was relieved, yesterday, to be rescued."

The Routeburn Track crossing New Zealand's Southern Alps attracts thousands of tourists every year. However, most visitors avoid it during the winter months, from June to August. Only climbers with crampons and ice axes can negotiate the terrain under deep snow.

The authorities also sent out a search party to recover the body of the man, who is also a Czech citizen.

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