A man who became disoriented while running in the Tararua Ranges
says he felt "absolute relief" when he stumbled across a hut in the
Wellington man Alastair Shelton, 33, failed to return from a run of about 23 kilometres around the Holdsworth Jumbo Circuit Track on Saturday morning.
Following a two-day search effort, a rescue helicopter finally spotted the avid runner alive and well around 10.30 this morning.
Shelton told ONE News that he had become disorientated in the South King area, after making what he described as "a really stupid decision" to continue his run, as conditions deteriorated.
"I had a plan to just run up there to the top little bit& I got up on to the tops and it was a little bit too misty and a little bit too much cloud coming down. What I should have done is turned around and gone straight back down.
"But I decided to press on a little bit to see if it had cleared. I ended up being completely disorientated up there," he said.
He said that he ended up in a high point in the ranges, in the centre of the park.
"I wondered if I'd survive it... I couldn't quite believe it... and I thought what an idiot, a really stupid decision to end up in this position. I thought about how mad my wife was going to be at me."
Shelton added that he ended up making his way down through the bush, down to a river, and spent the next two days walking.
"The first night I was just beside the river bank. I just found an overhanging rock and sort of crouched under that, which was pretty cold," he said.
However, he struggled against worsening weather conditions yesterday.
"The next day I started to get worried, the river got quite deep, quite rough, quite difficult.
"It started raining in the afternoon, it was getting really wet, and really, really cold. But I managed to stumble on one of those orange track markers and it took me down to the hut and I got a fire going," he said.
Shelton added that as soon as he saw the hut, "I knew I was going to be fine".
Once at the hut, he left a note detailing the direction he planned to walk in, and snacked on tea and peanut butter left behind by previous trampers.
Throughout the two-day ordeal Shelton said he was focused on making it back to his wife and children.
Shelton is an experienced mountain runner, who has been preparing for an upcoming 100 kilometre run.
Search and Rescue teams from Palmerston North and Manawatu arrived in the ranges this morning to relieve the other search and rescue teams.
"Just a huge, huge round of thanks, just awesome work that you guys do, and I can't say thank you enough," he told the search teams.
Shelton suffered a broken toe, caused by a fall into the river, some cuts and scrapes, and exhaustion.