An injured tramper says a fantastic effort from his rescuers helped him survive his ordeal in the Tararua Ranges.
Wellington teacher Don Stevens, 53, dragged himself metres uphill to improve his chances of getting cellphone reception after breaking his leg in a fall near Tarn Ridge Hut on Monday afternoon.
Mr Stevens said he knew he was "not in a great position" when he saw bones sticking out and blood coming out of his boot.
"I just had to stay positive. You just have to dig in and remain alert and think what can you do because you are the only one there, so it's up to you.
"It was not a good situation, but when you are there you've got to stay focused and focus on what might happen as opposed to what could happen and stay positive."
An experienced mountain runner and tramper, he activated his personal locator beacon and put on as many layers of clothing as he could.
Concentrating on his breathing and the advice he gave his 17-year-old son when they went tramping helped him to push away the pain and think rationally, Mr Stevens said.
"Yeah, you are tired and, yes, it's an effort, but you keep going."
After a first rescue attempt by a Palmerston North-based rescue helicopter failed, he abandoned his pack and dragged himself uphill across the steep terrain to try to get cellphone coverage and call police.
Once police learnt of his injuries, they decided to delay the search and rescue team and instead send in an Amalgamated Helicopter crew to attempt another airlift before darkness fell, Mr Stevens said.
Unable to land, the Amalgamated helicopter hovered nearby and crewman Jamie Hansen dragged him the final metres into the helicopter.
Police and the helicopter crew had done a great job in getting to him before dark, Mr Stevens said.
"The helicopter pilot did a fantastic job. It was dodgy, and the crewman had to drag me because where I was wasn't a good place, but I put in some effort -- although the crewman was basically dragging me across the slope.
"Jamie did what he had to do. I'm about 90kg and if you are having to move someone across a rough slope and it's getting dark, you move them the best way you can. He did a fantastic job."
Shock and relief finally started to kick in once he was safely inside the helicopter.
"That's when shock kicked in because I thought I was safe. I've been in the mountains long enough to know -- I thought I would've been alive in the morning, but who knows?
"I think JD, the pilot, did an absolutely amazing job."
Now recovering in Wairarapa Hospital, Mr Stevens had an operation on his leg on Monday night, with another operation, fitting a rod inside his leg, likely tomorrow.
For more articles from this region, go to Wairarapa Times-Age