Man survives three nights on ledge

08:51, Jun 29 2014
Ben Severne being winched from Lake Taupo forest
RESCUE: Ben Severne being winched from Lake Taupo forest after being stuck on a narrow ledge for three nights.

A Lake Taupo man spent three nights stuck on a precarious ledge wearing just his boots, pants and a t-shirt.

Ben Severne, 48, is today recovering with family and friends at his Hallett’s Bay home, 20km south of Taupo, after being winched to safety by helicopter yesterday.

A two hour walk in the Lake Taupo Forest on Wednesday to cut a horse track with his dog Whai, turned disastrous when he came across debris filled gullies that he struggled to navigate.

With time against him, he struck a path down to the Waitotara Stream so he could return home but it became a life-altering decision.

He attempted to climb down a gap between two bluffs, but fell, finding himself stuck on a narrow ledge overlooking a sheer drop to the stream 50 metres below and against a series of bluffs too steep to climb out.

Hungry, tired, and cold, as he was only wearing boots, pants and a t-shirt, he stayed awake at night by treading backwards and forwards on a shelf no bigger than a family car and slept through the day.


"I created a new shuffle, bro. I kept a rock on my left-hand side and I’d walk a few paces and turn around and walk back and turn around and walk back," he said.

"Then I’d stand on a spot and shake my legs like I’m Usain Bolt, bro, and I’d let myself almost rest and sleep standing-up and as soon as my legs buckled, I knew it was time to start walking again."

Whai watched as her master tumbled down to his narrow perch and despite a plea for her to head home, she risked it all to be by Severne's side and leapt down the waterfall after him.

"I’ve never seen a dog do that before and she made it and I just used her as a bloody warmer and jammed her in my back."

More than 70 Turangi hunters, forestry workers and friends joined the Police Search and rescue mission to get Severne out alive.

Severne’s mate, Brett Cooper from Tauranga, risked his own safety to drop down to the ledge to find Severne in a bad way. 

"We had a bit of luck but we found him," he said.

"He was in pretty poor condition, he had been out for three nights. He was shaking and was in pretty desperate condition."

Severne spent last night in hospital before being released this morning.

Fairfax Media