Routeburn Track rescue – statement from survivor Pavlina Pizova


As you can imagine the last month was very harrowing for me and my and my partner’s families. There is not enough space and it is not appropriate at this time to go into details, but I’d like to take this opportunity to just briefly explain our actions. The conditions were extreme, we encountered heavy snow fall and low cloud which contributed to our enforced overnighting in the open which affected our plans to reach Lake McKenzie Hut. In our attempt to reach the hut the tragic accident happened when my partner fell and died.

After his death it took me another two nights out in the open before I reached the safety of the hut. The recent heavy snows meant I was walking through waist-deep snow and because all track markers were covered, I had to find my own way. During this time I got extremely cold, exhausted, and my feet were frozen. At the hut, considering my physical health, the deep snow conditions, knowing there were avalanche paths ahead of me, I knew it was best to stay in the safe place. I made a few attempts to walk out from the hut, but my feet, the weather conditions and the deep snow discouraged me from doing so. At the hut I saw numerous avalanches coming down. I would like to use this opportunity to pass a strong message on to anyone intending to travel in the New Zealand mountains to seek very good information and mainly respect the winter conditions and quickly changing weather. I am aware we made a few mistakes – not leaving our intentions with somebody, not carrying a PLB and underestimating the winter conditions on the track. All these aspects contributed to our tragedy. I would like to thank the New Zealand Land SAR, the local Police and DOC for their effort to bring me to safety. Especially I’d like to thank Vladka and Richard Kennett for their help and assistance on the personal basis and helping our families to get through all this. Police would like to extend their sincere sympathies to Pavlina, and to Ondrej’s family, for their loss.



  • Nessie

    It’s so sad to be wise after the event. I suspect her own ordeal during the past weeks (while she stayed with her partner ) may well enable her to recover from such a tragedy.
    Go well Pavlina Pizova.

  • symgardiner

    Awful situation. She did very very well to survive… both mentally and physically. I hope she gets the opportunity to explore NZ in much nicer circumstances.

  • Big_Al

    This was a tragic situation. Far from home in a foreign country and having lost her partner and mate. It must have been terrifying for her. She did the right thing by staying put in the hut and was lucky to be found and rescued. This will no doubt haunt her for a long time and i wish her well.

    • Mike

      They did the wrong thing by going into the mountains without the right equipment (no tent, no PLB), without following protocols (tell people where you are going and when you’re leaving arriving) and they went against the advice of DOC staff.

      Sorry to say he’s a nominee for a Darwin award. She should get the bill for the SAR effort.

      • Dog Breath

        For years I went hunting without a tent and without a PLB the later because they did not exist. Half the time we had less than half the food required relying on our hunting prowess. We occasionally got ourselves in real sticky situations in the middle of the southern alps similar to this story without the fall and each time we figured out a way to survive. Spent many days and nights waste deep in snow. Took me years of otj training and experience to acquire the survival skills needed to do the above. Having read the story and picked up on some key info on what they were carrying and their decision making they were not dummies as you have implied, they knew what they were doing had the skills but we’re taking a risk, one I took many many times and my bush skills always came through. Their biggest mistake was not understanding NZ mountains and weather and why would they being tourists. No different to me being in the Swiss Alps which I bet is quite a different experience to my years spent in the bush and rugged mountains of NZ. This women did exactly the right thing and you don’t get the Darwin award because you slipped and fell. Had the fall not happened we would not be reading about any story and they would have walked the Routburn albeit in extreme conditions.

  • geoff

    I do wonder though why this couple were attempting this track at this time of the year and why they they hadn’t notified anybody before hand.
    Of late DOC has been complaining about stingy tourists trying to avoid paying hut fees.

  • Mark

    I wish Pavlina all the best in her recovery.

    I carry this PLB on the bike;
    PB Tech have just sent me an email with 24 months int free on Q Card.

    This is an excellent way to give yourself a fighting chance if you have an emergency situation.

  • Toby

    its a hard life lesson and my hat goes off to her for surviving in conditions that would have killed most people in the first day or so.

  • Jman

    They need to make an “I shouldn’t be alive” episode on her ordeal.

    • Crowgirl

      My husband and I used to watch that and marvel at the number of episodes that focused on mishaps in seemingly innocuous NZ. That being said, most of the time we thought the name of the show should be changed from “I shouldn’t be alive” to “This should never have happened” due to the number of stupid errors people making. I feel bad for her and she will regret their actions forever, but this is another episode of “this should never have happened”.

  • contractor

    Within sight of but a few hundred metres above the McKenzie Hut here is a bronze plaque memorial to a youngster, perhaps 11-14 year old, who perished there from hypothermia in mid December some 30 years ago in a snow storm. Back country environments like this (including the Tongariro Crossing) are dangerous but tragically taken too lightly by many tourists.

    • Dave of the West Bank

      If it was nearer 50 years ago, I was on the tops near Queenstown that day, mustering, and an orange froze in my parka pocket. It was a bit brisk, alright.

      Remember some kids with their teachers got into trouble that day.

  • Anthony

    They started out on July 26. I was there 2 days prior. It was wet but not unusual, there were 3 cars in the carpark. I’ve crossed before in winter, in a group of 4 with plenty of gear. There are alot of avalanche paths, plenty of places where you could get in trouble, and nobody else about. Being alone must have been hard.