The amazing survival and rescue mission of two Nelson trampers missing in dense bush, is reminiscent of other Kiwis striking tenacity in the wild.

Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor, 23, went tramping in the Kahurangi National Park 18 days ago but failed to return when expected.

Sightings of the pair before they set off on May 9 near the Anatori River suggested they were well prepared for their trip, which was due to end on May 14.

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Their parents and O'Connor's colleagues at Abel Tasman Kayaks were hopeful, saying O'Connor knew the area well and both were experienced in the outdoors.

The Herald has uncovered a few other stories of survival by trampers, hunters and explorers who managed to escape the worst.


Wife of businessman and philanthropist Gareth Morgan, Jo Morgan had a miraculous survival after digging herself out of an avalanche which claimed the lives of her two friends.

After digging herself out of the massive avalanche on Mt Hicks in October 2018, Jo Morgan set off a locator beacon.

Mt Hicks, 3198m, is a mountain in the Southern Alps within the Mount Cook National Park.


Three men had a "lucky" escape after an avalanche brought snow crashing down on their tents during a hunting trip in Fiordland.


The group came into distress late on the night of October 21, 2018 and set off a personal locator beacon.

Rescue crews went out with night vision googles and managed to track the beacon down.

The avalanche had hit the trio's tents where they were camping at the head of Lake Te Anau.

"It covered them with snow and ice, and it blew them off their seat," a rescuer said at the time.


Mt Aspiring National Park. Photo / File
Mt Aspiring National Park. Photo / File

Two trampers were forced to activate a rescue beacon amid life-threatening wind gusts in the Mt Aspiring National Park in January this year.

The pair were found "exhausted and hypothermic", in conditions so extreme that the rescue helicopter could not land where they were.

"The helicopter pilot said the wind was so bad, the trampers were lying down between each gust of wind and then got up," Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand spokesperson Mark Dittner said at the time.

The trampers were walking on the Gillespie Pass Circuit, in the Young River valley, near Makarora, at the time.


In 1980, Palmerston North tramper Peter Le Fleming, 21, was lost for 30 days after injuring himself while walking the Heaphy Track in the Kahurangi National Park.

Tramper Tony Brunt recalled the dramatic rescue to the Herald in 2010, saying rescuers had all but given up on finding him alive.

"As Le Fleming lay starving and close to death, a Christchurch police inspector decided to authorise a final helicopter search. It was that decision that saved Le Fleming's life.

"The tramper had spent three days and nights, lapsing in and out of consciousness, too weak to crawl to water a metre or two away.

"His rescue, after so long without food lost in the wilds north west of Nelson, was deemed a miracle."


Kiwi Claire Nelson survived three days in the blazing hot sun of the Californian Desert and fighting off dehydration by drinking her own urine. Photo / File
Kiwi Claire Nelson survived three days in the blazing hot sun of the Californian Desert and fighting off dehydration by drinking her own urine. Photo / File

As Auckland woman Claire Nelson lay trapped for three days in the hot blazing sun in the US Desert, she was forced to drink her own urine to avoid dehydration.

Nelson had suffered a broken pelvis, unable to move and in agony and terrified she'd be attacked by snakes after falling in the Joshua Tree National Park in California on May 27, 2018.

She had almost given up hope when she heard a rescue helicopter buzzing overhead, with searchers calling her name over a megaphone. She successfully signalled to the crew by waving a T-shirt and hat tied to a stick.

Kiwi survival expert Ian Barnes praised Nelson's ability to keep enough of a clear head to survive about 72 hours in such unforgiving conditions.