Birthday tramp with friends ends with winch from the sky

Birthday tramp with friends ends with winch from the sky

When Anne Clark set out tramping to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the last thing she expected was to become the centre of attention herself.

In early December, Anne, her husband Murray and two friends were enjoying a three day walk on the Waitakere Ranges’ recently opened Hillary Trail when suddenly Anne’s foot slipped off the track. What ensued were many months of extensive hospital and specialist treatment.

Anne, along with her heavy pack, tumbled dangerously and landed awkwardly with her foot unnaturally twisted and the bone sticking out. With no mobile coverage, Murray stayed with Anne while their friends went to get help.

“I tried to remain calm so we could figure out what we were dealing with,” says Anne. “We were well prepared so we were warm and dry, and Murray and I kept talking to distract me from the pain and help pass the time as we had no idea how far away help would be.”

Over an hour later Anne heard a noise that “still squeezes my heart” – the Police Helicopter who located the pair. St John’s then arrived, immediately administered morphine and put Anne’s leg in a splint. Due to the slippery conditions and the steepness of the terrain, the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called in – the team put Anne in a harness and winched her to safety.

“I love all the adrenalin stuff so I tried to make the most of the winch experience – unfortunately the morphine probably took away some of the thrill!” jokes Anne.

“The Westpac Rescue Helicopter team was so marvellous, extremely professional and handled the situation with such confidence. They are absolute champions.”

At hospital Anne underwent a five hour operation on the compound fracture area which involved repairing nerve damage and inserting a five inch long plate and six screws on the outside of her ankle. Murray then took two months off work to help his wife who had many weeks of bed rest, another operation and extensive physio. Anne still has the plate and screws on her ankle, is now able to walk and is back at work part-time.

And it seems the accident will only limit this adrenalin junkie’s taste for the outdoors: “I still have a lot of things on ‘my list’”, says Anne. “Murray and I had planned to parachute with our three sons the weekend after our Hillary Trail tramp for our “annual family adrenaline experience” but we’re now looking for something a little less adventurous – so we’re going to kayak down the Puhoi River instead!”

We cover Aotearoa, New Zealand

Find your local chopper to make a donation