Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Czech tramper Pavlina Pizova free to go home after Routeburn Track tragedy

Czech tourist Pavlina Pizova gives a press conference at Queenstown Police station after being rescued from the Routeburn Track. She survived for a month in a warden's hut after her partner died.
Czech tourist Pavlina Pizova gives a press conference at Queenstown Police station after being rescued from the Routeburn Track. She survived for a month in a warden's hut after her partner died.

A post-mortem examination to pinpoint exactly how a Czech tramper died on the Routeburn Track is being held today, as his partner who was trapped at a remote hut for a month after his death tries to travel home.

Ondrej Petr, 27, died on about July 27 after he and partner Pavlina Pizova became disorientated in bad weather and fell down a 7m slope.

Pizova scrambled to his side only to witness his last breath.

She survived a harrowing month at an isolated Department of Conservation warden's hut at Lake Mackenzie before she was rescued last Wednesday.

Police told the Herald that a post-mortem examination on Petr's body, which was recovered by a land search and rescue team on Friday, is being conducted today.

Pizova, who used ashes to make an "H" help sign in the snow and fashioned snow shoes with sticks during the ordeal, went through an "extensive interview" with police last Thursday.

She is now free to travel back to the Czech Republic and be reunited with her distraught family, police confirmed today.

Pizova, in her 30s, has been recuperating at the Glenorchy home of Vladka Kennett, Consul for the Czech Republic.

Kennett said Pizova is "doing really well" but is desperate to get home.

"That's the main thing she is concentrating on at the moment," she said.

"There's lots of communication going on between the family and her. She has lots of support back from the Czech Republic, lots of supportive emails.

"We are still waiting for more information from the coroner and ... availability on planes, it's very rushed."

Scene examinations at both the warden's hut where Pizova smashed her way in and existed on meagre supplies of food, firewood and gas for nearly a month, and the area where Petr slipped and died, have now been completed.

Police say extreme and severe conditions, including heavy snow and the risk of avalanche, along with her injuries - frostbite and possible hypothermia - prevented Pizova from walking to safety.

Although the Czech pair failed to tell people of their tramping plans, Pizova's tale of survival has been labelled "courageous" and "resilient". She has been praised by police and DoC for remaining at the hut, waiting to be rescued.

In an emotional statement to the public last week, Pizova thanked her rescuers.

Yesterday, Kennett said that Pizova plans to donate money to the New Zealand agencies - Land SAR and the Department of Conservation - that saved her life.

It is not the first time that Pizova has been touched by tragedy in the mountains.

"In a group of our friends there were several people who died in mountains or were seriously injured and they were really experienced mountaineers," Pizova's friend told Czech News Centre.

"We all knew that life is fragile but we [still] go to mountains."

- NZ Herald

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