Mercy dash saves tramper

EMMA BEER
Last updated 13:00 05/11/2012

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A distressed elderly man on a walking track at Nelson Lakes was fortunate three trampers found him.

The 80-year-old man from St Arnaud was in a stable condition in Nelson Hospital today.

Diane Goulding, from Stoke, and two of her friends were coming back from the Lakehead Hut at Nelson Lakes on Saturday afternoon when they found the man. He was helicoptered out of the bush just after 3pm.

Mrs Goulding said they first came across the man on Friday on their way up to the hut.

He looked a bit strange and they had asked if he was all right, but he told them he was fine so they continued on their way, she said.

On their way out the next day though, they found him sitting by the side of the track.

"I saw some glasses and we went a bit further and there was a man sitting down with his hands on his head. He was in a distressed state.

"We gave him some food, he was starving and thirsty."

While her friends, Helen McCarthy and Kim Currie, stayed behind and gave the man a chocolate bar and covered him with an emergency blanket, Mrs Goulding ran.

"I ran, with my pack, and found a backpacker and used his phone to call emergency services."

Ms Currie, who had a cellphone, had tried to call from the track but kept losing signal, Mrs Goulding said.

Mrs Goulding understood the man was a local and a bit of a recluse. He only had a day pack with him and was lucky they found him, she said, because there was no-one else on the track that day.

"The other people in the hut were all staying on another night or heading out the other way."

This was Mrs Goulding's first tramp and her first time wearing a pack. She had run for about half an hour, though it seemed to take forever, she said.

"I'm not sure how I ran with it on. They say it's meant to be lighter on the way back but it didn't feel that way. You do get that rush of adrenaline and get some extra energy."

The other women said once they had given the man some food and started warming him up he became quite chatty, Mrs Goulding said.

The weather had not been kind either, with heavy rain overnight Friday and rain on and off on Saturday. "He must have been

soaked through," Mrs Goulding said.

Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter pilot Tim Douglas-Clifford said the man was winched on board the helicopter about 3pm and was treated for hypothermia.

DOC Nelson Lakes community relations programme manager John Wotherspoon said from what he understood the elderly man had set out on a walk and taken a turn.

He was unsure what gear the man had with him, or if he had set out on a day or overnight tramp.

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"Certainly you should have warm gear with you. Even on a hot day the weather can change.

"Even if you're 100 per cent fine if the weather turns you're going to be a lot more comfortable with a coat and jersey," Mr Wotherspoon said.

- The Nelson Mail

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