Locator beacons ‘essential’

Vanessa Bridge. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Vanessa Bridge. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A British woman rescued from Fiordland’s Dusky Track after injuring her ankle says her experience shows personal locator beacons are essential in New Zealand’s back country.

Vanessa Bridge and her partner, Andy Reid, were on the third day of the challenging tramp on Wednesday when she cracked her fibula in a fall during a steep descent through forest to Loch Maree.

They were about to stop for a break when she caught her boot on a "wet and slippery" tree root at 4pm, Ms Bridge said.

"I turned my ankle and went down because my rucksack was so heavy.

"I stood up and looked down at my leg, and I could actually see my ankle getting bigger and bigger — it instantly ballooned."

Unable to put weight on it, the 63-year-old knew they were in a spot of bother.

"You’re three days’ walk from civilisation there, and deep, deep in the bush."

The experienced trampers put up their tent and she got in her sleeping bag while Mr Reid walked down to the unoccupied Loch Maree Hut.

Vanessa Bridge’s ankle after her fall on the Dusky Track. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Vanessa Bridge’s ankle after her fall on the Dusky Track. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

After an unsuccessful attempt to call for help with a satellite phone, he left a note explaining the couple’s predicament before returning to Ms Bridge with more water.

After spending the night by the track, they activated the beacon at 6.50am when it was clear she could not walk.

The arrival of the helicopter soon after 8am was a "joyful sound", and she could not praise the Southern Lakes Helicopters crew from Te Anau enough.

"They were so utterly professional, really calm, confident and reassuring.

"I couldn't walk a step and was three days from civilisation, so they really did save my life."

They were winched to the helicopter through the tree canopy, and flown to the Te Anau Medical Centre, where she had an X-ray.

The 84km track between Lake Hauroko and Lake Manapouri, which has a side track to Supper Cove in Dusky Sound, usually takes 8-10 days and is rated "difficult" by the Department of Conservation.

Ms Bridge said she and Mr Reid were fit and well-prepared, with a tent, plenty of food, a beacon and satellite phone.

Their experience was a reminder to anyone going into the back country that a beacon was "completely essential".

The tramp had been "sublime" until the accident, and they planned to return either later this year or next year to complete it.

Now wearing a moonboot and on crutches, Ms Bridge said the accident had forced the cancellation of their next adventure, a 10-day biking trip in the region, and they were sightseeing by car instead.

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