Ill-prepared tourist winched from Tararuas

By Tessa Johnstone


An ill-prepared Chilean tourist who got lost while tramping in Mt Holdsworth would have died if he had not had a mobile phone with him, say search and rescue volunteers.

Ignacio Falk, 29, walked to the summit of Mt Holdsworth on Wednesday but, coming back via the East Holdsworth Track in misty conditions, he lost the path and ended up nearly 3km off track.

He followed the Holdsworth Stream in hope it would lead him out, but soon realised he was lost and texted a friend in Auckland, who alerted police.

LandSAR sent in five rescue teams to search for him, hiring Amalgamated Helicopters to search by air, but they were hindered by foggy conditions and did not find him until yesterday morning at McGregor Falls.

Search adviser Bill Taylor estimated the rescue would have cost about $5000, although LandSAR is staffed by volunteers who rarely apply for remuneration and most of the costs were from the helicopter.

"It's not often you get someone so ill-prepared, most of them are better, but he didn't know. But all's well that ends well," Mr Taylor said.

The track Mr Falk walked is used by experienced trampers and a "goat track" compared to the main Holdsworth track, which is "like a state highway", he said.

Mr Falk did not leave an intentions form with the rangers, or tell friends where he was going, and was very lucky to have had a mobile phone, Mr Taylor said.

"If he hadn't had his cellphone, he would have died out there. No one knew where he was," he said.

It was not an easy rescue. Mr Falk was below the bush line and had to be winched up by helicopter and dropped to a clearing, where he was met by an ambulance. The tourist was cold and wet after falling in the stream, but otherwise well.

Although he could hear the helicopter on Wednesday afternoon, he could not see it for the fog. But the next morning he was able to text the helicopter crewman, when they flew over him.

Mr Flak, a sound engineer in Valparaiso, Chile, has been in New Zealand since late August on a working holiday and arrived in Masterton with two Estonians he met in Tauranga last Sunday to look for work. He said he was relieved to be rescued.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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