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A Christchurch woman who took a wrong turn on the Coronet Peak skifield late on Saturday afternoon hiked about 10km over "very challenging terrain" in the dark to a farmhouse.
"She didn't require medical attention, but she was emotionally distressed and exhausted.
"It was dark and that [cold] front was coming through. She was very, very lucky that she was strong enough to keep going," Constable Blair Duffy, of Queenstown, said yesterday.
The woman, who did not want to be named or interviewed, had fallen several times and sustained a few cuts and bruises during her five-hour hike, he said.
Her journey included negotiating fences and bluffs and being chased by a herd of Hereford bulls before ending up at a Hunter Rd address at 8.30pm.
Const Duffy said the 55-year-old had been skiing with a friend while her husband waited at the Coronet Peak base building. She became separated from her skiing companion about 3.10pm. When his wife had not appeared by 5.40pm, the man raised the alarm with the ski patrol.
"There weren't a lot of daylight hours left, so a chopper was sent up to conduct a provisional search of Rocky Gully and the Coronet Creek area, but that failed to locate her," Const Duffy said.
Police were preparing to launch a search and rescue mission when they received a call to say the woman had turned up.
The woman would be going back to Coronet Peak to talk to the staff "to go through where she's come unstuck, so it doesn't happen again", Const Duffy said.