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Each year a group of friends get together to take on one of the numerous mountain bike rides in New Zealand. In March 2017 this group gathered in Hanmer Springs intent on tackling the St James Cycle Trail. This 64 km trail offers challenging mixed grade riding through stunning scenery of mountain peaks, crystal clear rivers, high country lakes, alpine meadows, subalpine beech forest and expansive grassy river flats. Much of the trail is inaccessible by vehicle.
It was a beautiful day although still a little cool when the group set off from the start at the Maling car park While negotiating the steep descent from Maling Pass into the Waiau valley, only 7km into the trail, one of the riders, Markus experienced a fall. At first it was thought that his injuries were relatively minor and consisted of a few cuts, scrapes and bruising. It was only later that it became apparent that Markus had also sustained a blow to the side of the head. We continued on the ride but steadily Markus struggled to maintain the pace. Following a stop for lunch at Saddle Spur Bridge, it was recognized that the pace had slowed to such an extent that if we were to continue we would be unable to complete the ride in the daylight hours remaining. It was therefore decided to send ahead the fastest two riders to arrange transport to be available at the end of the four wheel drive track, some 12kms away. Meanwhile the remainder of the party would continue at a rate determined by Mark.
While climbing Saddle Spur Markus’s condition deteriorated to the extent that he was unable to ride and at times had to be assisted walking. Once back on to the river flats it became apparent that to attempt to get back to where we were expecting a vehicle to be waiting for us would put Markus’s health at risk and the decision was made to stop, activate the PLB and wait for professional help. What a wonderful sound it was when one hour later we first heard the sound of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter coming up the valley. The Helicopter crew and medical staff were exceptional and quickly treated Mark and put the rest of us at ease. Markus was transported to the Christchurch Hospital where he spent 6 days in the Neurology Ward with a suspected brain bleed before being transferred to his home town hospital. All other riders continued with the ride, all are now very firm believers in PLB’s and intending to put them on their Christmas present want list.
Thank you ACR.
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