U.S. Students Criticized After Getting Lost in New Zealand Wilderness

Category: Society / Jun 11, 2012 11:47AM EDT

Two American students were criticized by New Zealand authorities on Monday (June 11) for being unprepared, after getting lost in the wilderness of New Zealand's Southern Alps in a nine-day ordeal which sparked a massive search operation.

Erica Klintworth and Alec Brown, both aged 21, who were in New Zealand on a study exchange with the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, walked out of the bush themselves on Sunday (June 10).

Local media reported that the students had intended to spend just a couple of days tramping the rugged New Zealand Alps, when a snowstorm hit with temperatures dropping to minus 8 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit). The pair were trapped and forced to survive on meagre rations of one biscuit and jelly per day while huddling in hot springs to keep warm.

We were wearing hoodies, and like, just not the type of thing that you want to be wearing and have when you're stuck in a mountain storm. But I think when it came down to it, we were a lot more prepared than everybody thought, said Klintworth.

New Zealand police criticised the pair for being ill-prepared for the weather, and said an expensive search operation could have been avoided if they had left written intentions.

It is frustrating. I mean, there's a lot of work gone into this operation. You know, taxpayers' dollars, the use of a helicopter, and obviously, you know, the search and rescue volunteers that we use. A lot of their time's been used up over the weekend, and you know, perhaps needlessly, Sergeant Sean Judd said.

After emerging from the wilderness, the pair spent the night in a local backpacker hostel, and were reported to be heading to the city of Christchurch.