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Tramp survivor drew for help in snow

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 24/08/2016

A Czech tourist drew signs in the snow for help as she hunkered down in a hut for nearly a month after her tramping partner died in a fall on the Routeburn Track in Fiordland National Park.

The woman broke into a Department of Conservation warden's hut and she stayed there until she was rescued on Wednesday.

Otago Lakes-Central police area commander Inspector Olaf Jensen says no other trampers passed by in the intervening period.

"The female made signs in the snow about seeking help and she actively signalled to the helicopter yesterday when it flew in," he told journalists on Thursday.

Mr Jensen said she and her male companion, also Czech, set out on their journey on July 26 and it appeared the man's fall happened two days later.

The woman then spent three nights out in the open before she was able to make it to the Lake McKenzie hut 2km away.

"It's obviously a very unusually case given the length of time that the female was in the hut," Mr Jensen told journalists on Thursday.

"It's probably been unhelpful some of the commentary about why she wasn't found.

"The fact is that no one had been through the hut in that time and, given the severe weather conditions and her physical capability as a result of the ordeal, she was not able to make it out, and made the right decision staying put."

Mr Jensen said the pair were travelling companions aged in their late 20s and early 30s.

They had been in New Zealand since around January, travelling and on a working holiday.

They had some experience of the back country and were reasonably well equipped, "but the conditions they were in were quite severe".

Police were first alerted by the Czech consulate on Wednesday that the pair, who didn't have a locator beacon, had gone missing.

They found their vehicle at a car park at the Glenorchy end of the track and began a search.

Mr Jensen said the woman had suffered minor frostbite and possibly hypothermia, and was treated at hospital, but required only an examination.

The man's next-of-kin had been notified of his death.

Police had hoped to recover his body on Thursday, but were prevented by the weather and planned to make another attempt on Friday morning.

Mr Jensen said the site of the fall was an alpine area, reasonably steep and covered with snow, and police were in the process of reconstructing the incident.

DOC's Wakatipu operations manager Geoff Owen said there would have heating in the hut and there might have some food left behind by wardens.

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