Tumble on Turoa


It’s not often we get a patient who tells the story of their rescue with as much colour and flavour as Peter Bowker, so rather than the abridged version of his rescue that you’ll find in the Palmerston North Friend’s Newsletter, we thought we’d let Peter tell recall the tale in his own words.

“I maintain this was not my fault.

Anyone can step out of their ski…right? I mean who was to know that the sinister sounding ‘bang’ as I carved to the left high up on ‘Solitude’ (some distance from the regular routes) could mean anything other than a lump of late afternoon ice.

It was only 50m later as I carved to the right and began to carve left that the recalcitrant ski could be noticed, just hanging around insolently way back up the slope as I topped the turn and started to head directly downwards.

On one ski, this was a time when the injunction; “gravity is your friend”,  did not apply. I could feel the impact on my knee as I toppled over and screamed obscenities as I was forced against my will and better judgment to cartwheel head-to-toe down the next 50m.

There are moments when you just know you are not going any further. This was one of them.

With assistance from some passing young skiers, I was just considering the need to activate the Personal Locator Beacon(PLB),  when the ski patrol duly arrived.

I slid down the next 200m, leg raised, until we reached a convenient tarpaulin to drag me to the sled and so further to an appropriate helicopter landing site.

No question of any other option with ravines and cliffs between me and civilisation, I reflected on the technology of our times and how it is so easy to take these things for granted. It never left my consciousness throughout that chilly wait as the sun began to sink and the mountain froze around us that a helicopter has got to be one of mankind’s smartest achievements of the 20th Century.

It was nice to have the avalanche dog hanging about to hug from time to time. The idea that stroking an animal reduces stress and strain is not wrong. Shame he had to be tied up ‘cause apparently he quite likes helicopters too and is inclined to jump in.

It took some skill to place the chopper on the snow. The place was “flattish” only and no one could tell how soft the snow was going to be under the skids. That was smart piloting. I had not understood they carry a wingman to act as guide on the ground. This was more complicated than I had imagined and a lot more skilful.

Being handed in to the chopper like a useless carcass was comforting, if a little humbling, but the repartee from the crew helped greatly. They had done this kind of thing before I could tell (and if they hadn’t then they passed if off with finesse).

The best part was watching the sun set behind Taranaki in the distance as we dropped back to the Mountain Medical Centre. At least I got the front seat so I could see it all. Didn’t take them long to assess the damage and then it was wheel me back out and down to Whanganui Base Hospital for a ‘screw-it-back- together’ type operation.

The crew was in top form. I felt only safe and in good hands. Very impressed with their operation and humour is a helpful salve in these moments, so I am immensely grateful, thank you to the crew, to the people who make this possible. May you always continue to fly.

And even though the reasons for it are not what I ever wanted; I did enjoy the flight.

Thank you,

Peter Bowker”