Andreas Pemmer had planned to celebrate his 50th birthday in style. The Austrian ski-fanatic wanted to experience New Zealand’s mountains and beautiful scenery. His partner, Antje Tracht- Junge from Germany, wanted to tick off an item on her bucket list – heli-skiing.
“We started in Auckland and followed the good weather north,” explains Andreas. “We then headed south to Taranaki because the weather and avalanche forecast were looking good. We arrived at the Manganui Ski Field on Mt Taranaki at 1pm and although it was too late to reach the top of the mountain, I thought it was a good day for training with our touring skis.”
Antje had some reservations. The ski field was closed and there was less snow, but the weather was clear and sunny so the couple asked workers on the Manganui ski field about a good route to take with their skis.
They decided to head to the top of the upper Tow and ski down but less than 100metres from the Top Tow Antje lost one of her poles.
“I was about 30metres away and told her it would be better to turn and ski down but I didn’t realise the situation she was in. Suddenly, I saw her slither down the ski field and about 50metres further she vanished behind the rocks.”
Unable to see where his ski partner was, Andreas quickly changed his gear in a bid to ski down to Antje. “It was hard snow and slippery but not a real problem until suddenly it felt like I’d stepped on glass,” recalls Andreas. “About 80metres down I saw a fence and beyond that a cliff.”
The fence broke his fall and he was able to call emergency services. Meanwhile, Antje had been rescued by ski-field workers and had been moved to a hut, close to where the Rescue Helicopter could land.
“We were taken to hospital and received wonderful care from the crew and all emergency services staff,” says Andreas.
Andy Cronin, General Manager of the Rescue Helicopter, says Andreas and Antje were skilled skiers who were caught out by the different conditions on the mountain. “They were both very experienced and had good equipment, so they were well prepared. However, New Zealand mountains, and Mt Taranaki in particular, are very different to the mountains of Europe. Our weather can change extremely quickly and it’s often difficult to judge the terrain.”
After their experience, Andreas and Antje changed their trip to a Thermal Pool holiday. “We learned about the danger of mountains but thank you to all the kind people who helped us. We are still alive.”
The Trust would like to thank Andreas and Antje for the donation they made to the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter in recognition of the mission we undertook to rescue them from the mountain.