A Scottish tramper who fell while tramping in the Tararua Ranges, north of Wellington, survived two stormy nights in the open by weaving a nest out of flax.
John Balgrano, 28, went into the Tararuas from the Upper Hutt end at the weekend but slipped and fell near the Steel Ladder on Tararua Peaks on Sunday.
Balgrano told the Dominion Post he struggled to make it back to the track with an injured leg and, faced with winds gusts of up to 150kmh and driving rain, he ditched his pack and stuffed his sleeping bag case with the bare essentials .
He found a sheltered ledge, wove a nest out of flax, filled it with bracken and tried to wait out the storm.
“I tried to stay focused and just tough it out. I was getting anxious but I knew I had to keep positive.”
A search and rescue ground team found him at 8.15pm on Wednesday and, because of the weather conditions, spent the night in a nearby hut with the search team. He was airlifted out the following morning.
“I was plucked from the jaws of death. Another night up there exposed, wet and alone, I don’t know if I would have made it out alive,” Balgrano said.
Masterton police Sergeant Peter Rix said Balgrano was in remarkable condition considering he was looking at his thir d night in the open when he was found.
“He stripped down his pack to the bare survival essentials. It was his mental and physical toughness t hat got him through.”