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I said to Chris "its Over"

One the 20th of November 2016 along with a friend of many years, who had alot of experience with rafts, we flew into the Boyd Airstrip in the Kaimanawa Ranges of the central north island. This was to be a 6 day trip, and seeing as the area is quite remote, we took two locator beacons with us - why two? I like to hunt and fish, and my friend likes to fish, so if I had the beacon with me hunting, and  didn't return, what would my friend have done?
As things transpired, on the 2nd day, coming down through ’The Gorges' section between Gold Creek and the Ngawaporau hut we were repeatedly  up ended out of our raft and nearly lost our lives, stuck under the raft, tangled with gear, bashed and thrashed until the raft got away on us. We chased it down through 3 more cascades losing more and more energy until my mate was about 100 yards ahead of me, I saw him stop on a rock and at which time I realized that if I went into that last pool - I would die.
We both had hung onto our paddles, so using mine, I worked my way upstream until I could get to the bank then clawed my way along a rock wall until opposite him, I went into the water and just managed to swim across, if he had not grabbed my paddle end, I probably would not have made it.
So, standing on that rock, on a bright benign sunny day, we had on us our Personal Locator Beacons, floatation devices, GPS, helmets, wetsuits, booties, and gloves. the raft, which had been losing its cargo as it went, was another 100 yards down the stream - stuck in the middle of a very fast section, we could see  no means of getting to it without losing out lives. We looked at each other and I said to Chris "It's over" He was shaking and really stressed having had a much harder time through the last section of the white water, racing to catch up to the raft.
So we pulled out the PLB's raised the aerials and pressed the activation buttons together, mine worked right away but Chris's , after an initial burst, flashed red and stopped. We noticed it had moisture in it. The day was very hot so we set them side by side on the rock. At this point , we prepared for the possibility that we may not get picked up, so we stripped off all our gear and dried it which took about an hour, all the time wondering what it would look like if the rescue helecopter arrived overhead!
After dressing again, I realised that I had made a mistake not to have additional survival gear on our belts, we had no fire lighting gear and no shelter. In this case - niether were required as the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter arrived overhead , they flew around assessing the situation then departed. As they were accessing the  situation, we folded up our PLB's and packed them, but when they flew off again, we pulled them back out and  re activated them, about then,  the one that was  water damaged started working again as the moisture in it had turned to vapour in the heat and  it  worked  the next time  we  turned it on.
As it turned out, the rescue helicopter had gone upstream to find and open tussock plateau to drop a crew member and lighten the load, on their return - the pilot did the most amazing bit of flying, very slowly edging up stream with what seemed like no more than two metres on each side of the rotors between the forest and the rock face until they hovered over our rock and we climbed aboard  one at a time.
Remember, if this happens to you, there is no embarrassment to setting off one of these devices, so access your situation, and do not wait, when they rescue service receives a call, they do not know what they are facing and to be able to carry out their job in daylight hours in good conditions rather than perilously in the dark, makes your rescues much easier.
We were treated with great care and concern by a wonderful group of people who took us back to Taupo and then to the St Johns Base, there we had nothing but what we stood in, so no car keys to get into our vehicle, we spent the next few hours waiting until my wife and son arrvied to pick us up.
So in conclusion we were well equipped, world class raft, good gear, two PLBs, but thinking about the situation now, I realise we let the river dictate terms having got into an uncontrolled position we never managed  to get back from due to the terrain and the circumstances. Without the back up of the PLB, the outcome could have been very different as we were only at day 2 of a six day trip, so no alarm would have been raised for 5 more days.
WEAR YOUR PERSONAL LOCATOR BEACON on you  NOT in your pack or raft, but ON YOU!!!!!

 

Survivor Stories

Thank you for the availability and accuracy of the Locator Beacon

My trip started some 5 days earlier, but on the day of my rescue, I was navigating between topo points from gps guidance and unmarked terrain. It was pretty tough going, but I was sticking to ridge lines on the tops to make it easier. I got to one point where the GPS  tried to guide me down to another, and I had an idea that a blazed trail may have been closer to the edge of the lake. 

Unfortunately it wasn't closer , and I sidled down some very steep terrain making it very difficult to progress any further. The major problem I had was that it was going to make my departure date for the trip overdue, which would set off concerns for both my family and the rental company, and ultimately lead to a large scale  search with no idea of where I am to be found.
    
I could have stayed the night and continued the following day, possibly getting out of the difficult point I had walked into, but I could see it wasn't going to be a good idea. 
    
It took some consideration and time for me to come to decide to activate the Locator Beacon, and once I did, I felt a sense of guilt as it is a serious tool for  serious  situations, but I knew it was ultimately  the right thing to do. 
    
The helicopter was there in around one hour and did an amazing job pin pointing my location thanks to the beacon, and  rescuing me from my predicament. They were very skilled operators,  I cannot say that enough. So thanks to the Southern Lakes Helicopters team and  Southland Locator Beacons.
    
Thank you for the Availability and accuracy of the Locator Beacon!
Adam Smith
New Zealand

The rescue team commented that had Adam not had a Locator Beacon, it would have been  EXTREMELY difficult to find him. But with the Beacon... they were able to fly directly to him.

Milford Track Rescue

While on vacation from the United States, I decided to walk the Milford Track, so I hired a personal locator beacon from the gas station in Te anau to take with me (Best thing I ever did).  I was going over Dore Pass on the first day and got into the trees about 2 or 3 km from Glade house and  I lost the trail, I must have taken a wrong turn, so I looked for a way down to where I thought the trail was but it seemed that every option had a 15 to 30 metre drop.  The soil gave way and I slipped on one of the edges - I fell a little way and grew concerned, every step I took the earth was soft and I was frightened of falling.
   
I activated my Locator beacon because I thought there was no way I could go any further and I feared for my safety, in a matter of less than 2 hours  I heard the helicopter and I was rescued. While waiting for my rescue, I found a safe place I could sleep and  wondered if  I should  turn off my  Locator Beacon, but after being rescued, I was told to NEVER turn my Locator beacon off after activating it. When the Beacon is activated, it starts a chain reaction, and a  Search is initiated, if the Beacon is turned off, the rescue crews don't know if it has been turned off because you are OK or  the  beacon may have malfunctioned. So never turn your beacon off until you are rescued. The crew would rather find you and talk to you to make sure you are OK.

Rescue by Locator Beacon

I fell while tramping the Motatapu trek and injured my spine and hip bone. I couldn’t walk properly the next morning after resting a night at the Rose hut.

Fortunately we rented a Locator Beacon at DOC Qweenstown when we were registering for the trek. Immediately my brother activated the rescue call at 12noon.

We were all so relief when we saw a helicopter approaching us at around 1.30pm. There were 1 pilot and 2 rescue crews. 

The rescue team was very detail and careful prior to the evacuation procedure. They asked a few questions regarding my injury and took all personal information. 

Upon arrival at the nearest hospital in Wanaka, they helped me to get on to a stretcher and handover to the nurse together with the full report of what happened to me.

I am thankful to have the Locator Beacon with me. A very good experience learned. 

You guys saved my ass, no doubts about that...

Woke up to clouds but no rain and set off from the Top Forks Hut. Hike up to waterfall face was steep one. Ascent over the face was O.k., some parts you’d try but come back down to try again from a different direction. I eventually got over the face and into the upper valley of the Rabbit Pass. A breezy walk to what turned into a disaster. I got to a saddle and based off the description of visual landmarks, the marker at the top of the saddle and no mention of another route branching off the Rabbit Route, I took this valley as the Rabbit Pass Valley.
This was incorrect.
I started down the valley and while my compass was telling me one thing, the map and route description were telling me another. In the end I followed the latter and ended up deep in the mountains, forcing my way down the “Pearson” valley to a river I believed would lead down to Junction flat, but it ended up taking me to the back of Mt Aspiring. The terrain became increasingly difficult until I had literally trapped myself in a ravine with no way out but forward.
Based on my situation and growing bad feeling, I knew that to continue forward would severely increase my risk of injury or worse. I then set off my Locator Beacon for SAR to save my ass from myself. I spent the night in the ravine during a storm which delayed the rescue until the morning the following day. SAR flew up the valley and after spotting me, landed, broke out the ropes and got me out of there in no time.
Obviously my pride was humbled setting off the Beacon, but only up until I saw where on the map I was and where I was going. I was getting into deeper trouble every step, attempting to push on wards.
Without any doubt, had I not had that Locator Beacon, I would have ended up miles away from any trail, beyond any hope of being spotted from a Search and Rescue.
To the boys at SAR, thanks for saving my ass.
And to anyone looking to tramp in unfamiliar terrain, bring a Locator Beacon, don’t think twice about it.

All for only $40 dollars

Dear Southland Locator Beacons Trust

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 $40 for the week no-one should head out into wilderness areas without one.

Regards, and thank you

Heather Niederer

We were told about the Five Passes walk by hiking friends. We were told it was a challenging walk, with majestic scenery and an opportunity to experience true isolation in backcountry New Zealand. The walk traverses Fohn saddle, Fiery Col, Cow Saddle, Park Pass and Sugarloaf Pass between the Dart River and the Routeburn track. We knew the walk would be a challenge with no huts, no formed path, limited track descriptions and the possibility of snow. We set off with an abundance of food and gear to cover the many possible eventualities we might encounter on such a trip.
The route included crossing snowy passes, scree slopes and steep gullies. These sections were bound to be more challenging but over each of these stages we were extra cautious and avoided any mishaps. The 4th day started the same as the previous mornings with porridge and coffee, and then we set off 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.