By Jordi Lippe and Jordi Lippe-McGraw
Updated: January 21, 2017
Amalgamated Helicopters NZ Ltd

A mother and daughter hiking through the wilderness in New Zealand finally returned home safe after being lost for five days. Rachel and Carolyn Lloyd from North Carolina used branches to spell out "HELP," ultimately attracting the attention of a rescue helicopter. 

The ordeal began on Tuesday, when 25-year-old Rachel, who was studying abroad, and 45-year-old Carolyn ventured into Tararua Forest Park after windy conditions had prevented them from checking out Tongariro Alpine Crossing, where some of the scenes in The Lord of the Rings were filmed. They prepared to follow the Kapakapanui Track, which takes about six to eight hours to hike, but became disoriented after following blue markers instead of orange ones. The blue marks were used to track opossums—not indicate a trail.

It got dark and they couldn’t climb back up the steep hill, causing the pair to become stranded on 600-foot waterfall. They weren’t prepared for an overnight trip and faced 40-degree temperatures and a lack of food.  They lay on top of each other to keep warm, according to the Associated Press, and kept each other awake so they wouldn’t fall over the edge.

The next day Rachel and Carolyn set out scale down the cliff next to the waterfall. To make matters worse, Rachel slipped and hit her head, making her incapable of walking. "That's when I started going downhill," she told the AP. "I could never get dry and couldn't get warm the rest of the trip."

They eventually made it to a clearing, with Carolyn carrying her daughter, and rationed out their minimal food and water. There was no cell service, and both their phones had died, regardless. "At this point it was very scary," added Rachel. "I was trying to stay positive, and constantly praying, asking God to be with us."

By day four Carolyn decided to make a ”HELP” sign out of nearby ferns. She made two of them in two separate clearings. "I was terrified," revealed Carolyn. "I was doing everything I could to keep her alive."

Help was already on the way after authorities learned Carolyn didn’t return her rental car or check out of her hotel room.

On day five, Amalgamated Helicopters was sent out on a mission to find the missing women and within 30 minutes saw the “HELP” message. The two were rescued and Rachel is now recovering from hypothermia and undernourishment at Wellington Hospital. She plans to continue her studies in New Zealand.