Czech tourist reveals how she survived 30 -day ordeal in New Zealand mountains

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Pavlina Piova tells of enduring the death of her partner, sleeping three nights in the open and how attempts to walk back to security were frustrated by poor weather and avalanches

Pavlina Piova, the Czech tourist who survived a month in the New Zealand wilderness, has told how she suffered three nights in the open in freezing wintertime conditions before managing to discover shelter at a mountain hut.

Piova, 33, and her partner Ondrej Petr, 27, began hiking the famous Routeburn track in Fiordland National Park in the South Island on 26 July.

But two days after starting out in freezing mid-winter conditions the pair become lost and disoriented due to cloud and heavy snow, she told a press conference in Queenstown on Friday, and strayed off the main track.

The couple spent one night in the open and the next day, according to Piova, Petr slipped, fell down a steep slope and died shortly afterwards.

The conditions were extreme, we encountered heavy snow autumn and low cloud which contributed to our enforced overnighting in the open which affected our plans to reach Lake McKenzie Hut, Piova said at press conference dressed in hiking boots and hiking clothes.

Pizova speaks at the press conference in Queenstown on Friday 26 August.

In our attempt to reach the shanty the tragic accident happened when my partner fell and succumbed, she said.

Piova then spent two more nights exposed to the elements, including heavy snowfall and below freezing conditions, as she struggled to find the hut which lies on the 32 km track.

Pavlina Pizova and Ondrej Petr. The couple began hiking the famous Routeburn track in Fiordland National Park in New Zealands South Island on 26 July 2016. Pizova survived a month in the wild when they are became lost and Petr fell to his death. Photograph: NZ Police

Piovas translator, Vladka Kennett, said she did not understand how Pizova survived without shelter but that Pizova had told her that she stuffed her sleeping bag with everything she had to stay warm and massaged her feet continuously.

She is an extremely tough female, said Kennett, who is the Czech honorary consul in Queenstown.

After two nights in the open Piova managed to find her way way to Lake Mackenzie Hut, a distance of 2km. Piova said the short trip-up took so long because of poor visibility, exhaustion and her frozen feet.

Routeburn track

She first explored the public 50 -bed facility, before climbing through a window into the smaller wardens shanty, which was better rendered and more comfortable.

Piova had food, firewood and gas to stay warm. There was also a mountain radio but Piova was unable to understand the English instructions for operating it.

At the shanty, considering my physical health, the deep snow conditions, knowing there were avalanche tracks ahead of me, I knew it was best to stay in the safe place, said Piova.

A view from the Routeburn track. Pavlina Pizova and Ondrej Petr began hiking the road before losing their route and Petr slipped to his death. Photo: NZ Police

I made a few attempts to walk out from the hut, but my feet, the weather conditions and the deep snowfall discouraged me from doing so. At the hut I assured numerous avalanches coming down.

During her month-long stay at Lake Mackenzie Piova attempted to way a pair of snow shoes from hiking poles and timber. She also drew an H in the snowfall( for help ), which she inked with ash from the flame, to try and attract the attention of helicopters flying overhead.

The pair had not told anyone about their hiking schemes and it was almost a month before the Czech consulate finally raised the alarm. Police detected the couples vehicle at the trailhead on Wednesday and sent a helicopter along the route, reaching Pizova at 1.30 pm.

The wardens hut at Lake Mckenzie on the Routeburn track in New Zealand where Pavlina Pizova spent nearly a month when her partner succumbed and she became stranded in poor climate. Photograph: New Zealand DOC

Police said she was alleviated to be rescued and was found to be in remarkably good health, holding her ordeal. Piova called the people involved in her rescue heroes.

At the press conference, Piova was asked about the effect of recent media speculation and remarks by mountain experts that her remarkable tale of survival was unbelievable and odd.

Kennett responded that Piova was ignoring research reports and rising above any local gossip. She is such a brave person and she is ignoring it, said Kennett.

The New Zealand police said any commentary around Pizovas decision and what happened on the Routeburn track was unhelpful..

Piova has been in touch with her family and hopes to return home as soon as is practicable. Although she remained stoic through most of the press conference, towards the end she began to cry softly as she thanked the New Zealand police, search and rescue and her translator for their help.

Piova fostered other tourists to make sure they told person they trusted about their hiking schemes, carry an emergency locator beacon and not to underestimate the New Zealand weather.

Lake McKenzie hut on the Routeburn track where Pizova took shelter. Photo: NZ Police

A body believed to be that of Ondrej Petr was retrieved from the area by police on Friday and a coronial investigation into the death has been launched.

Inspector Olaf Jensen, Otago Lakes Central police area commander, reiterated that Piova stimulated the right decision to stay put in the shack.

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