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We had a long weekend coming up and instead of whitewater kayaking like most other weekends, Carey and I decided to tick off a hike we had our bucket list. We came up with the idea four days in advance, realizing that the perfect time was approaching, a four day hike, a four day weekend, four days without rain (crucial for river crossings!) and to top it off, there wasn't a heap of snow around! On Friday around lunch time we worked out another kayaker, Emily, was keen to come as well, so after some last minute packing we were off to walk the 'Three Passes' as it's known by locals, near Arthurs Pass (South Island, NZ).
We set off for an hours walk in the dark on Friday night to get a head start, followed by a beautiful morning on Saturday seeing the sun rise over the mountains and mist clearing. Saturday night was spent at the top of Harman Pass (1st of the 3), after clambering up a bouldery steep river bed, and we camped by Aries Tarns (after a quick dip!). Sunday morning we climbed up over snow, ice and scree to reach Whitehorn Pass (2 of 3), followed by a steep and gnarly descent down the Cronin Stream, eventually we reached the formed track, 800m from the hut, but 2.5 hours from our planned campsite by Lake Browning at Browning Pass (3 of 3).
Upon reaching this track we decided to fill our water bottles. As we saw the track crossed a stream, I stopped to tie my bootlaces and the two girls carried on down to the stream. As I followed down, disaster struck, the clump of grass I stood on gave way which resulted in my boot with all my weight on it dropped a short distance before gripping onto the rock below. I caught a glimpse of the side of my boot square on, I remember thinking 'Uh Oh' before I felt a stabbing pain shoot up my leg and heard an audible snap. Letting out a yelp, I fell and slid and rolled a couple of meters down and onto a flat rock, the girls hearing and seeing this came over. I hadn't broken a bone properly before but I instantly knew something was wrong. Carey helped me feel my leg and could distinguish the break. We quickly bandaged it to prevent it swelling and made the call to push the button on the beacon as we were two days walk from the nearest road and it was obvious I wasn't walking anywhere with the steep terrain around us, on either sides of the river bed and for about 20km in all directions!
With some dry socks, some painkillers and a sleeping bag I was comfortable for the 2.5 hours until the helicopter arrived, held up as it had been attending a car crash. When the helicopter arrived we had shuffled gear so the girls could continue on the rest of the hike by themselves. They had another PLB (another advantage of carrying more than one per group!) and were happy with just the two of them on the remaining terrain. After the helicopter paramedic Dave was satisfied I was alive and suitably broken the winch operator Stu came to see me and arranged getting me back into the helicopter, sitting in a canvas sling ('nappy'). I was winched into the helicopter in the dark, farewelling the girls and off to hospital. On the way out the pilot ('other') Stu decided they would take me to Greymouth hospital, being the closest to where we were and also where the helicopter was based.
Upon passing over Browning Pass (Yay, I managed to get over the 3rd Pass!) he saw there was too much fog and rain on the West Coast so decided to turn back for Christchurch. Upon arrival in Christchurch I was given an x-ray pretty quickly, establishing my fibula was broken in two places just above my right ankle. After spending the night in Christchurch hospital I was lucky enough to be the first operated on in the (Monday) morning at 9am, being released from hospital the next afternoon (Tuesday). It' sounding like I'll be stuck inside for a few months, so that will take some getting used to, but it's certainly a lot better the considering the alternatives if we didn't have a PLB (especially given we didn't see others for most of the trip!), and that we were two days walk from the ends of the track in either direction. After this I was glad I had been convinced to buy a PLB years ago and that I have carried in my pack or life jacket ever since! It has cemented itself as a crucial piece of kit!
After this I was glad I had been convinced to buy a PLB years ago and that I have carried it in my pack or life jacket ever since! It has cemented itself as a crucial piece of kit!
Thank you ACR!
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