Two exhausted trampers have described the ''harrowing ordeal'' that saw them lost in the bush for more than 24 hours.
Churton Park women Anita McGonigle, 39, and Kim Dunne, 36, were rescued from the Tararua Ranges yesterday afternoon, after a wrong turn on a Sunday day trip left them sheltering in an old hut trying to keep warm.
Today the exhausted pair were recovering at home.
''We are both very happy and grateful to be home with our families after a very harrowing ordeal,'' Mrs Dunne said.
They had walked to the Kapakapanui summit on Sunday, but took a wrong turn on the return journey, she said.
''We walked for hours hoping to find our way out of the forest. Before night fell, we were fortunate to come across an old hut which we sheltered in.
''We remained there, huddled together exhausted and cold. We just hoped someone would find us as we had no energy to go on any further.''
About 2.30pm yesterday help arrived after searchers traced their footsteps to the hut.
The searchers had done an amazing job, Mrs Dunne said.
''Without them we would not have been found so quickly and the outcome may have been very different.''
Sergeant Anthony Harmer, head of the Wellington Police Search and Rescue operation, said the women had entered the bush lightly equipped and prepared only for a day trip.
Search parties found the two women on the Waiotauru Track heading towards Otaki Forks.
The women has contacted Mrs Dunne's mother at about midday to say they were heading down, but by 2pm called again in tears to say they were lost and disoriented. The cellphone then lost battery power.
Robin Rogerson, who lives in Reikorangi near the track, said it was easy to get lost.
"If you go one metre off the track, it can be hard to find again," she said.
Most trampers who walk the track are experienced and well equipped, Ms Rogerson said.
"You don't just go for a stroll up there."
A mother and her son died after getting lost on the track about two years ago.
A local hunter said the recent snowstorms had brought down a lot of trees - many which had markers attached.
"It would be quite disorienting."
The Conservation Department describes the Kapakapanui Track as mostly unformed with steep, rough or muddy sections.
- The Dominion Post