Man ties legs together, crawls for help

Blake McDavitt a RARO (Ruapehu alpine rescue) team member with the injured man.
Blake McDavitt a RARO (Ruapehu alpine rescue) team member with the injured man.

A German man who slipped and broke his leg climbing Mt Ruapehu tied his legs together with his shoelaces and dragged himself some of the way down the mountain to get help.

The 19-year-old, who is living and working in New Zealand, was hiking alone around 11.30am yesterday in an area called Te Heu Hue Valley, above the Valley T-bar on the mountain's north western slopes, near the summit of the mountain, when he fell.

He believes he slid up to 100 metres until he came to a stop by smashing into an outcrop of snow and ice. He suffered an open fracture to his femur, among other cuts and abrasions. He also lost his cellphone in the fall, and was unable to call for help.

Bleeding heavily, the man used his shirt to help stem the blood loss and managed to create a make-shift splint by tying his legs together below his knees with his shoelaces.

As he dragged himself further down the mountain, his cries for help were heard by another man and his daughter, who were near the Knoll Ridge Cafe, climbing to the summit, and went to investigate.

The pair were able to alert emergency services.

The Taupo-based Greenlea Rescue Helicopter was dispatched and, with the help of the National Park police and Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation members, was able to take advantage of small breaks in the passing cloud to get to him.

The climber was lifted off by the helicopter and treated by an advanced paramedic on Bruce Rd, where he was stabilised before being flown to Rotorua Hospital.

The officer in charge of National Park police, Constable Conrad Smith, said the man did exceptionally well to drag himself downhill far enough for his cries of help to be heard. He was unprepared and ill-equipped for alpine conditions and was only wearing street shoes.

"Quite possibly tying his legs together like that saved his life," Mr Smith said.

"I only had a brief conversation with him and he was pretty pumped up with drugs when I saw him, but he seems like a bit of a character.

"There's a few lessons that people can take on board from this. Although we are almost into summer there is still a lot of snow and ice near the top of that mountain.

"This guy was only of slight build . . . he did have a good jacket on and some other gear. But you definitely don't want to be hiking up the mountain if you have only got some street or skate shoes on."

The Dominion Post