William Pike shares his positive outlook

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 12:12 17/09/2012

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A man who lost a leg while trapped in a shelter on an erupting volcano was in Blenheim at the weekend to tell people the importance of being positive.

William Pike, who lost his right leg from just above his knee during an attempt to climb Mt Ruapehu in September 2007, gave a moving speech about how he adjusted his life and accepted the change to about 50 people at the Marlborough Convention Centre yesterday.

The event marked the end of the Conservation Department's Love Your Parks conservation week.

The Auckland primary school teacher told the audience the support from his friends and family had him up and out of Waikato Hospital about nine weeks after the incident.

He never took a day for granted because he thought he might not get another one when his legs were trapped by rock and ice on the mountain after it erupted.

Mr Pike was in his sleeping bag when the door to the snow shelter, near to the 2797-metre summit on Mt Ruapehu, was smashed off its hinges by a wall of water and mud about 8.30pm.

He could feel the bones in his legs "cracking and breaking" as the water pounded his body with large rocks.

His friend and fellow climber, James Christie, had managed to fall asleep in the shelter earlier in the evening and woke to the roar as he was blasted against the wall.

Mr Pike thought he was going to drown as the water level began to rise to his head and the floorboards underneath were swept away.

The initial flood subsided but the water quickly froze around Mr Pike's legs on the shelter floor. It was minus 8 degrees Celsius.

Mr Christie, unable to crack the ice with a shovel, left in search of help and returned four hours later, about 1.30am, with a rescue team.

Mr Pike was "shaking violently" and could feel his bones "separate and snap back together" each time he tried to pull his legs from the ice.

"I didn't expect to wake up from that and am thankful for every day, every one of them since has been a good one for me."

He faced 15 operations and took 64 units of blood over nine weeks at Waikato Hospital and now walks with a carbon fibre foot connected to an hydraulic ankle.

Mr Pike returned to the shelter in 2010 with a class of Taupo school students who were competing in the William Pike Challenge.

He created the challenge to encourage school students to make the most of the "beautiful backyard" that is New Zealand.

Conservation Department community relations manager Siobain Browning finished the event by thanking him for sharing his story and announcing that the winners of the Love Your Parks scavenger hunt were Xavier Ennals-Pellett, 8, and his brother, Sebastian, 5.

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- The Marlborough Express

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