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On Sunday night 1st June I was rescued by the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter. I was out on my mountain bike training for a planned hiking trip in outback Alaska USA. The Hira Forest is a production forestry area East of Nelson City New Zealand. The idea was to bike from the Whangamoa Saddle on the main highway through to Sharlands Creek close to the city. The roads are barred to the public for cars but the forestry company allows mountain bikers and runners to pass through when forestry activity is not being undertaken. I did not start out until about 3:30 pm on a winter day.
All went well for the first two hours. I passed one jogger and two fellow bikers heading the other way. I reached the Teal saddle 1200 ft ASL about 5.30 pm. The sun was going down but I thought that the worst of the climbing was over by then. I soon spotted a road sign indicating Sharlands Road. Thinking this must be the way I ground on up the hill climbing all the way. I was getting a bit apprehensive as the sun slide below the horizon. Cresting a hill I found two road signs. One pointing back the way I had come announcing Sharlands Road and the other pointing towards a valley which I knew was the wrong way. Aha the third un signed road left must be the way. I was soon spinning down the good gravel road hoping I would make it before dark when suddenly the road came to a dead end. I had to slowly walk back up the hill to the main road and decided I needed to exit the forestry area via Teal Saddle. I eventually reached what I thought was Teal Saddle. The light was now so poor I had difficulty recognizing it and unfortunately made another mistake going down yet another wrong road.
By 6.30 it was pitch black. I faced the possibility of trying to walk back up the pitch black road and running the risk of falling over a bluff. For a few seconds I debated if I should use the PLB that I had purchased only two months previously. I had been hiking in the mountains for 50 years so knew that a night spent out on the tops in below freezing temperatures would not be pleasant. I could not even see the markings on the PLB as I struggled to unlock it by feel. It was with some relief when it started up and the strobe light almost warmed me up. From where I was I could actually see the Nelson Airport where the rescue helicopter is stationed. The pilot would have seen my beacon light as soon as he took off. Finding me was the simple part. Being in a recently logged forestry area was a big worry for the pilot because of the risk of hauling wires which are almost impossible to see in the dark, so they took an agonizing long time to land right beside me on the skidder site.
The paramedic seemed almost disappointed that I was not injured but they soon realized that if they had to look for me without the beacon it would have been slow and hazardous for both of us. They soon bundled my bike into the back of the helicopter, buckled me in and had me back at the warm hanger in a few minutes. It looks like I better put a large donation in the box next time my Rotary Club does a fundraising event for the Helicopter Trust.
Glenn Morris, age 66, Nelson NZ.
Thank you ACR!
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