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Tramper’s Tararua ordeal

The Land Search and Rescue team with rescued tramper Caleb Smith being picked up from the McGregor Bivouac. PHOTO/ NICOLE GRANGER

Tramper flown out of Tararuas

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A tramper stranded in the Tararua Ranges was helicoptered out early Tuesday morning.

Police Search and Rescue co-ordinator Tony Matheson said the man, 45-year-old Wellington tramper Caleb Smith, had been located at McGregor Bivouac at 2.30am.

He said search and rescue had walked to him from Jumbo Hutt at midnight, encountering strong winds.

Matheson said Smith and his dog were found saturated at the bivouac.

The Search and Rescue team had given him some fresh clothing and made sure he was warm. They were then flown out to Holdsworth.

Smith said that a bad route-taking decision had led him to become stranded.

He had only planned to take a day trip from Holdsworth road end to Baldy and South King in the Tararua Forest Park.

Smith had taken a tarp with him, but no sleeping bag.

What else he had packed could have been the difference between life and death. Smith had good clothing, plenty of food, a personal locator beacon, maps, a cellphone with an extra battery pack, and his dog Olive.

Smith had spent the night at the headwaters of the Atiwhakatu River on Sunday after making a “stupid decision” that put him on a spur between Mt McGregor and Jumbo Peak as he was battered by torrential rain and howling winds.

Smith said a “bad route-making decision off the top of South King is what led me into this stupid position”.

Wrapped in a tarpaulin, Smith and Olive “nuzzled up” and kept each other warm through the night.

“Her warmth was definitely a bonus, for both of us, because I was afraid, she was freezing, so I would pull her in close.”

Smith said the best moment of the whole ordeal was to see the Search and Rescue Team and put on some warm, dry clothes.

“I can’t thank them enough. When they came in the door, it was the best moment.

“I was massively relieved, eternally grateful and embarrassed all at the same time.”

Smith wanted to thank all the search and rescue staff and volunteers, as well as Carterton-based Amalgamated Helicopters.

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