Tramper Pavlina Pizova's grief-stricken stay in remote Fiordland hut video


One month alone, Pavlina Pizova’s survival story.

Pavlina Pizova was polite, almost apologetic, as she recounted her nightmare.

"Good day," she began.

In broken English, the Czech tramper described an ordeal that started a month ago, when she and partner Ondrej Petr set off to walk the Routeburn Track in Fiordland.


Czech tramper Pavlina Pizova talks about her experience during press conference.

Two days later he would be dead. Pizova, cold and injured, endured two nights of snow, fog and wind. When she finally found shelter in a remote hut, it would take nearly four weeks for her to be rescued. Nobody knew she was there.

* Bid to escape snow-bound hut 
* Editorial: Story of human bravery and folly
Search for Dutch woman missing on Routeburn track
Israeli tourist died off track

An emotional Pavlina Pizova describes her month-long ordeal after the death of her partner on the Routeburn Track.
Iain McGregor

An emotional Pavlina Pizova describes her month-long ordeal after the death of her partner on the Routeburn Track.

Clutching a written statement, Pizova told a press conference at Queenstown Police Station on Friday of the conflict she faced: so desperate to get out she fashioned snow shoes out of vegetable baskets in attempt to walk through metre-deep drifts; so determined to live that she forced herself to stay. 

"At the hut, considering my physical health, the deep snow conditions, knowing there were avalanche paths ahead of me, I knew it was best to stay in the safe place."

Only once did she stray off script, after she thanked the search and rescue, police and Department of Conservation (DOC) staff who found her.

Pavlina Pizova and Ondrej Petr.

Pavlina Pizova and Ondrej Petr.

"That is very, very important," she said.

Ad Feedback

Then she broke down.

Pizova was saved only because consul for the Czech Republic Vladka Kennett, who lives in Glenorchy, near Queenstown, spotted "a random Facebook post" from concerned relatives back in Europe. She passed Pizova and Petr's details to searchers and she was found.

Pavlina Pizova spent a month in a remote Fiordland hut after her partner died on the Routeburn track.

Pavlina Pizova spent a month in a remote Fiordland hut after her partner died on the Routeburn track.

"If the message didn't come through she would still be there," Kennett said.


Pizova and Petr, both from tiny Czech towns, embarked on the Routeburn Track from the Glenorchy end on July 26, despite warnings from DOC staff. According to Kennett, they had no tent or locator beacon and told no-one of their plans.

Police have released this image of the Mackenzie warden's hut, where Pavlina Pizova sheltered after the loss of her ...

Police have released this image of the Mackenzie warden's hut, where Pavlina Pizova sheltered after the loss of her partner on the Routeburn track.

After spending one night at the Falls Hut, the pair got caught in bad weather and became disoriented.

They spent the night out in the open, trying to shelter from the wind and snow. The next day, still disoriented by heavy fog and strong winds and with snow still falling, the pair slipped five to seven metres down a steep slope through bush. Petr fell further and became trapped between branches and rocks. Pizova was able to reach him but could not free him. She heard his last gasps of breath before he died.

"She tried everything she could but she was totally exhausted," Kennett said.

Pavlina Pizova was rescued after being stranded in a Fiordland hut for about a month.

Pavlina Pizova was rescued after being stranded in a Fiordland hut for about a month.

"It was impossible [to free him]."

Unable to move her partner, Pizova spent two more nights sleeping in sub-zero conditions – at least one of them against a "vertical rock", her mostly wet possessions stuffed into her sleeping bag for warmth.

"She probably didn't even sleep she was just trying to move [her] fingers and toes to somehow keep warm," Kennett said.

Czech tramper Pavlina Pizova talks about her experience during press conference.

"It was freezing. She was there in the worst part of the winter.

"She still can't feel her fingers . . . [they're] totally numb."

Pizova was finally able to reach the Lake Mackenzie Hut campsite, where she broke into the DOC warden's hut through a window. She only just made it.

Czech tramper Ondrej Petr died after falling on the Routeburn Track.

Czech tramper Ondrej Petr died after falling on the Routeburn Track.

"During this time I got extremely cold, exhausted and my feet were frozen," she said.

"The recent heavy snows meant I was walking through waist-deep snow and because all track markers were covered, I had to find my own way."

The hut had food, gas and firewood. Pizova's numbed fingers had turned white and her feet swelled drastically when she removed her boots. It was days before she could put them on again. Unable to walk far and with "numerous" avalanches around the hut, she stayed put. Trying to get her strength back, she exercised outside the hut with a heavy pack. 

Lake McKenzie Hut and surrounding area on the Routeburn track near Queenstown where a woman was living for weeks after ...

Lake McKenzie Hut and surrounding area on the Routeburn track near Queenstown where a woman was living for weeks after her partner died.

Later, Pizova tried to walk out with her improvised snow shoes. Too hard. She used ashes from a fire to write "H" [for help] in the snow, hoping a rescuer would see it. No-one did. The hut had a working radio, but the English operating instructions were indecipherable to her. There was no choice but to wait.

"Nobody can prepare you for this," she later told police.

Kennett saw the Facebook post on Sunday and provided photos and car registration details to searchers, who tracked the couple's Toyota to the Routeburn car park at Glenorchy. She got the information from Petr's mother, she said, who was "reasonably panicky" but trying to comfort herself that her son and his partner had just lost their cellphone.

The woman decided to stay put because of the injuries and the snow.

The woman decided to stay put because of the injuries and the snow.

"Nobody knew – that's why it took so long," Kennett said.

"If they'd left any intentions with anybody ... there would have been some kind of panic."

On Friday, Pizova, in her early 30s, admitted she and Petr, 27, made "a few mistakes" in their preparations.

The warden's hut at Lake Mackenzie on the Routeburn Track.

The warden's hut at Lake Mackenzie on the Routeburn Track.

"Not leaving our intentions with somebody, not carrying a [personal locator beacon] and underestimating the winter conditions on the track.

"I would like to use this opportunity to pass a strong message on to anyone intending to travel in the New Zealand mountains to seek very good information and mainly respect the winter conditions and quickly changing weather."

Otago Lakes central area commander Olaf Jensen said Pizova was "relieved" to see the helicopter crew that picked her up.

She was taken to hospital as a precaution and was understandably upset, but otherwise in good health, he said.

Despite poor weather, a recovery team was able to recover Petr's body on Friday morning.

Now, Pizova wanted to go home.

"The last month was very harrowing for me and my and my partner's families," she said.

"Especially I'd like to thank Vladka and Richard Kennett for their help and assistance on the personal basis and helping our families to get through all this.

"They are heroes for me."


February – Pavlina Pizova and Ondrej Petr arrive in New Zealand for a working holiday.

July 26 – Pizova and Petr enter the Routeburn Track from Glenorchy, despite warnings not so from DOC staff. They stay the night at Falls Hut.

July 27 – Facing "extreme" weather, including heavy snow and low cloud, the couple cannot reach Mackenzie Hut and are forced to sleep out in the open.

July 28 – The pair fall down a steep slope in more poor weather. Trapped, Petr dies. Pizova spends another night in the elements. 

July 29-30 – Pizova, cold and injured, tries in vain to reach Mackenzie Hut campsite, finally succeeding after a third night in the open.

August 24 – Pizova is found in a hut by rescuers after family at home in the Czech Republic raise concerns. The couple's car was traced to Glenorchy.

August 26 – Petr's body is recovered. Pizova speaks of her "harrowing" experience – "I am aware we made a few mistakes".

- Audio courtesy of RNZ

 - Stuff


Ad Feedback
special offers

Tensions high at Lit Quiz video

Kids Literature Quiz winners Wellesley College team members Jack Morrah, left, and Harry Hampton debate an answer.

Are you as well read as these 12 year olds? Take our quiz.

Steel win game of two halves

Southern Steel player Jhaniele Fowler-Reid with the ball against Northern Stars GK Sulu Fitzpatrick, left.

The Southern Steel juggernaut rolls on with an 82-58 win over the Northern Stars.

Woman with lupus faces deportation

A woman's suffering from lupus has had her application for judicial review declined.

The woman has had $192,000 of treatment in New Zealand and if she was to stay would cost more, court says.

Sunday crash snarls motorway

The crash involving two cars caused minor injuries to the occupants, Auckland police said.

It's not only the week days where Aucklanders have to put up with traffic.


All you can carry

28052017 News photo Monique Ford / FAIRFAX NZ
The Food Show Wellington @ Westpac Stadium 
beverage vendor business ...

Some filled suitcases with goodies as roughly 14,000 whet their appetites at The Food Show.

Boardwalk to the bay?

26042017. News. Photo Supplied
Artist impressions of the proposed Shelly Bay development being undertaken by Taranaki ...

A cantilevered walkway could feature in Shelly Bay development but ratepayers look set to foot some of the bill.

Quake stretched steel

36 Customhouse Quay had steel stretch during the Kaikoura quake.

Some tenants of 36 Customhouse Quay have relocated pending a closer look at an engineer's report.

Seven months to fix tip

T&T Landfills will take seven months to do remediation work to stop contaminating Owhiro Stream.

Do the work and worry about the paperwork later, Wellington council tells landfill operators.


Winston's cathedral pledge video

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is pledging to restore Christ Church Cathedral.

Splash more cash on quake-damaged cathedral, NZ First tells Govt.

'Promoting disability'

Barry Adams, 35, needs surgery for a prolapsed disc in his spine.

Barry Adams needs back surgery, but won't get it unless he cannot work or walk.

Diver death questions

William Viliamu, known as Wira, was a respected haka leader, beloved teacher and senior member of Nga Manu a Tane. He ...

Eight men have died diving in New Zealand waters this year. Experts say mistakes are being repeated.

Lawyer: 'I'll die in debt'

A 52-year-old Kiwi lawyer is considering bankruptcy to wipe his $85,000 student loan debt.

Chch man came home from UK to find his $16k student loan had ballooned to $85k.


Earthworks start on city park

Earthworks are happening as construction gets under way on the Victoria on the River project.

Construction on a new Hamilton park by the river in the central city is well under way.

Tourists' $160m bill

District health boards spent about $160 million treating patients ineligible for public healthcare between 2013 and 2016.

Crook overseas visitors put the squeeze on health budgets. And a third of the bills are written off as bad debt.

Four Square jumping video

Thames Four Square owner Sukhpal Singh was a happy chap on Sunday morning.

Four Square owner Sukhpal Singh could not be happier after selling a $27 million Powerball ticket.

How to spend $27m in Thames

All the windows look out on the sea from this multi-million dollar home in Whangamata.

You could buy a lot with that cash. How about an air hangar, and a plane to put in it?


Steampunk races - whacky fun video

Andrew Butturini hat maker and goggle extraordinaire shows his fine hat ware.

Small rural town hosts Steampunk Taranaki Teapot Racing Championships.

E-coli in the water

E-coli has been discovered in Waverley's water supply.

Residents advised to boil all water used for drinking, brushing teeth or for food preparation until further notice.

Company helps workers kick habit

McKechnie employees take on the quit smoking challenge and win with the help of Tui Ora quit smoking coach George ...

Quit smoking programme a success for McKechnie employees.

Medicinal horseradish and garlic

Winter's here, and with it the dreaded lurgy.

OPINION: The trick to beating a cold - and worse.


Duo defy the odds

Vicki Walsh, who has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, finished the Manawatu Striders half marathon with the ...

She was told she wouldn't run again, but despite her cancer, she crossed the finish line.

A place of inclusion

Jonny Kan and Mitchell Pera concentrate on their artwork during a NOA session in the Te Manawa foyer.

Te Manawa's NOA is a group set apart by its inclusiveness. Creativity flourishes there.

Arms Fair a hit

Yvonne Clarke all kitted up at the annual Arms Fair 2017.

Guns, bullets, knives and antique gas masks were all shown off in Palmerston North.

A stroll down memory lane

Neil Oliver, host of Coast New Zealand.

TUNNEL VISION: From Patriot's Day to Jean Batten, history was presented on the screen.


Waimea Combined stun Nelson College

Waimea Combined Schools celebrate their stunning UC Championship rugby win over Nelson College on Saturday.

Waimea Combined score a stunning upset win over Nelson College.

Right to protest

Lewis Staton aka Hone Ma Heke at the protest at the 1903 Square during Saturday's protest, having recently been released ...

Former prime minister calls on the council to withdraw a draft bylaw that would require a permit to protest.

Suburbs step up in second spell

Suburbs striker Ben Wright broke the deadlock in Sunday's 4-0 win over Universities.

Nelson Suburbs beat Universities by scoring four goals in the second half.

The waisted years

There's no real mystery to middle-aged spread.

OPINION: Middle-aged spread has turned up uninvited.


The church needs saving

The future of St Oswald's Anglican Church, near Wharanui, has yet to be decided.

The distinctive stonework church has been a lasting sight on the South Island's east coast. But it's in trouble.

Just doing my job, sir

Seizing overpriced wine was part of the job for Justices of the Peace 700 years ago. (File photo)

Seizing overpriced wine was once part of the job for Justices of the Peace.

Moutere reach semifinals

East Coast No 8 Billy Collins, right, is tackled by Marist loosie Ryan Dafel in Seddon on Saturday.

Moutere will be the only Marlborough-based side contesting the Tasman trophy semifinals.

Life-saving drug comes at a cost

Maddy Cooper took Herceptin after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She says the drug worked well for her.

It costs more than $100,000 to treat cancer sufferers, but is credited with saving many lives.

South Canterbury

Dredge on final visit to Timaru video

The Pelican Dredge has dredged the sands of the Timaru Harbour for the last time.

After almost 30 years the Pelican Suction Dredge has sailed out of Timaru for the last time.

'Deeply concerned'

Ara Institute of Canterbury's Washdyke training farm.

Polytechnic to meet with key stakeholders over "deep concerns".

Family Works under pressure

Counsellor Glenn Smith works with adults who have addiction problems. Smith thinks a three-month wait for family ...

Three-month wait list for Family Works' counselling service prompts DHB assistance.

'Out of character'

Timaru police are looking for 53-year-old Murray Wall, missing since Thursday.

Police urge public to report sightings of missing Timaru man Murray Wall.


Te Anau fights for maternity centre

A large crowd of supporters turned out in Te Anau on Saturday afternoon to march.

The Te Anau community bands together to fight for better rural maternity funding and to save the Lumsden Maternity Centre.

Budget 2017 


Clutha-Southland candidates discuss their high and lowlights of Budget 2017

Your chance to cast a vote

Cyclist Eddie Dawkins.

Your chance to have your say for the 2016/2017 Southland Sports Awards.

Busman's holiday gets beached video

Jeff Leeden got his 1964 VAL Bedford bus, Chubby Cheeks, stuck in the sand on Oreti Beach.

Aussies thought they'd take their housebus for a jaunt on the sands. This was nearly its final stop.

Ad Feedback