Hunter rescued off Fiordland ledge

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 22:27 31/03/2014
Southland Times photo
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ
Chris Prudden, of the Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue team, leaves a Southern Lakes Helicopter with Lloyd Matheson after a successful rescue at White Water River George Sound.

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LATEST: A hunter who spent the night clinging to a tree high on a ledge in Fiordland is back out stalking deer with his mates after being plucked from his precarious perch.

The Taranaki man in his 20s was forced to spend last night high above the ground near the Whitewater River in the George Sound area of Fiordland.

He got stuck on a cliff with an overhang about 80 metres above him.

The overhang prevented the hunter from being rescued last night after he activated his personal locator beacon at 6.55pm when he became bluffed - unable to move up or down.

Queenstown volunteer alpine cliff rescue team leader Chris Prudden said his team was alerted to the hunter's plight last night and were on stand-by for a rescue mission at first light.

The alpine rescue team made up of Prudden, Derek Chinn and Jono Gillan joined Southern Lakes helicopter pilot Richard "Hannibal" Hayes and winchman LLoyd Matheson for the tricky mission.  

''We spotted the hunter on a ledge in a very steep and remote part of Fiordland,'' he said.

''Two rescuers were attached to strops under the helicopter and dropped above the hunter.''

The rescuers abseiled down to the ledge using ropes before securing the hunter to a rope and abseiling with him down to the riverbed below, Prudden said.

''He was a bit cold but otherwise in good spirits,'' he said.

''I'm sure he was glad to be down after spending a chilly night hugging a tree. He would have got in quite a bit of tree-loving.''

The hunter had remained in contact with his two friends throughout his ordeal who were snug in a hunters camp nearby and that would have helped him through the night, Prudden said.

It appeared the hunter had tried to come down from a ridge or escarpment and ended up finding himself in a situation where it was hard to get down, he said.

However, the night spent hugging trees on a ledge had not put the hunter off.

''We dropped him off at the campsite with his mates and they carried on hunting,'' Prudden said.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand search and rescue coordinator John Ashby said the man was one of a party of three from Taranaki, all in their 20s, who were hunting in a wapiti deer block close to Whitewater River, near George Sound.

"This is an excellent result for the alpine cliff rescue team and the Southern Lakes Rescue Helicopter crew,'' Ashby said.

Staying on the ledge overnight, as the hunter was unhurt and had some emergency equipment with him, including a survival blanket, was the safest option, he said.  

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''He was also in radio contact with his companions, so he had at least some company.

''This rescue again showed the benefit of carrying a personal locator beacon, Ashby said.

''It could have been a very long wait without it."  

 

- The Southland Times

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