The New Zealand bush can be particularly harsh in winter. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

A hiker reported missing on Wednesday evening in the Tararua Forest Park walked himself out safe and well on Thursday morning after spending a night in the bush.

A 21-year-old man was reported missing at 6.30pm on Wednesday when he hadn’t returned from a day hike through the Waiohine Track.

A land search and rescue team was deployed immediately overnight.

They found footprints and searched all the way to Cone Hut, but there was no sight or further trace of him.

They resumed their search early Thursday morning, with helicopters and an additional land SAR team accompanied by dog units brought in to aid in the search.

The man eventually walked into the Tararua Forest Park car park about 10am where his father and Land SAR officials were waiting.

Masterton Police constable Richard Butler, who was involved with the Wairarapa SAR team deployed, said there were no medical issues to deal with and that the man seemed well, despite being minimally equipped for a night in the freezing cold.

“He didn’t seem overly phased by it all when he walked in [to the carpark],” he said.

“But it would have been unpleasant for him to spend the night with the gear he did or didn’t have because it would have been cold and I’m sure he would have been damp in some way, shape or form.

“The Tararuas can get really rough when you’re in the middle of it and it’s probably lucky it didn’t rain overnight but he managed to get through that.

“Thankfully, he managed to get himself out.”

Butler said the overnight incident was a timely reminder for hikers to take appropriate gear when they took long walks, in case they ran into a spot of bother.

“At the end of the day, he was minimally equipped for winter tramping and he just ran out of time and light, so he had to spend a night in the bush because he didn’t have a light source to continue walking in the dark,” he said.

“It is important to bring the appropriate gear because if you do have a hiccup like that, you’re better equipped to deal with it.

“We do recommend, especially in the winter months, that people take some overnight gear if they can,” Butler said.



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