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October 2020 Issue
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The time I wish I had a PLB

Readers responded with harrowing tales of misadventure when we asked them to share their near misses in the outdoors. Here’s a selection of the best entries.

Winning entry

By Danielle Nicolson
After 23 hours on our feet and building a bivvy in the snow, I gladly took off my boots to get into my sleeping bag. When I saw my right foot, I understood why I felt so miserable. It looked grey and I had no feeling from the ball to my toes. My friend said it might be frostnip.

I tried massaging my feet to get the feeling back. That didn’t work. I then wrapped my foot in an emergency blanket and went to sleep. When we woke three hours later, the tips of my toes and forefoot had gone a grey-purple. My left toes were also numb. Both feet looked waxy.

I asked a friend if we should use their PLB, but we became distracted because it looked like an exit to the valley might work. The team bundled my stuff into their bags and scouted a path down. I just wished for my own PLB, instead I spent another 11 hours on my feet to get out.

Timely treatment for frostbite is critical. Now, as I watch some of my toes deteriorate into black nubs, I reiterate my wish for a PLB in that moment.

– Danielle, we’ve got a KTI Safety Alert PLB on its way to you courtesy of

Carry on tramping
By Mary Mitchell
Our trip to Earnslaw Burn started out like any other overnight hike but ended at the Glenorchy pub with a fractured ankle.

My friend Luci and I packed up camp as the sun rose over Earnslaw Burn, ready to set out on the five hour forest walk. Thirty minutes later, there was an audible ‘pop’ as Luci stumbled. The expression on her face suggested something serious, but I convinced her otherwise in order to keep spirits high.

Walking the next 100m took more than an hour. With bad weather forecast, we had no option but to continue with me carrying our packs and Luci accepting painkillers from passing hikers.

Nine hours later, we emerged from the bush unaware of how bad her injury really was. Elated to see the car, we drove to Glenorchy for a well deserved beer and banter about how a PLB would have been really handy.

Gorge fall
By Duane Ashman
I had been tramping for around 30 years and never had more than a scratch so I did not consider carrying a PLB when my eight-year-old son and I walked to Cameron Hut.

We had to be out the next day as heavy rain warnings were in place. To get out of the valley, you have to cross the river just before it goes into a deep gorge. It was here that I lost my footing and fell four metres, breaking three metatarsal bones in my left foot.

With no PLB, it took eight hours to hobble out of the valley and across the creek to get my son to safety.

Lunch break
By Rachel McPhee
My husband, seven-year old daughter and I were accompanied by my daughter’s friend and mother on a walk through Waiohine Gorge in Tararua Forest Park.

The track was a little rough in places – lots of tree roots and plenty of mud from recent rain. Just before stopping for lunch, I descended a steep part of the track. My foot slipped, hooked onto a tree root, and before I knew it I had a dislocated and broken ankle.

My husband rallied everyone together and sent our friend and the two girls to call for help. He got me back to the top of the track where there was a more comfortable spot to rest. Thankfully, we had a good first aid kit, including an emergency blanket.

Three-hours later, I was helicoptered to Wellington hospital for surgery to fix my foot. I’m still on crutches, but I can’t wait to be fit enough to get outdoors again – with a PLB, just in case.

Heart stopper
By Karen Roberts
On a tramp to Te Rereatukahia Hut in the Kaimai-Mamaku Conservation Park with my family, I noticed my new sports bra felt very firm.

We came to a grass clearing overlooking the Waikato, where we had a scroggin break because I was feeling depleted.

In the next section of bush, my chest was burning; not like my normal burning lung sensation. I used my Ventolin inhaler, but it crippled me. I was having a heart attack.

Miraculously we had cell phone coverage and my son called 111. Before we knew it, I was being winched to safety.

At 60, fit and active, I never expected to have such a sudden and severe heart attack. Were it not for the rescue helicopter, I would not be alive today.