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U.S. students survive 9 days in New Zealand bush

By Nick Perry

Associated Press

Published: Monday, June 11 2012 9:51 p.m. MDT

In this 2012 photo provided by Alec Brown, Alec, right, and his girlfriend Erica Klintworth pose near mountains in Arthur's Pass, New Zealand. The two 21-year-old American students walked out of the New Zealand wilderness Sunday, June 10, 2012, after a snowstorm trapped them for nine days. (AP Photo/Alec Brown)

Associated Press

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Two U.S. students trapped in the New Zealand wilderness by a snowstorm trekked back out to safety after surviving their nine-day ordeal by rationing their meager supplies of trail mix and warming themselves in hot springs.

Alec Brown and Erica Klintworth, both 21, returned to the city of Christchurch on Monday after meeting up with members of a search team — famished but otherwise in good shape, police said.

The two students, on a foreign study program in New Zealand with University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, had planned to hike and camp for a few days at some hot springs on the country's South Island. But heavy rains and a snowstorm during the Southern Hemisphere winter prevented the couple from being able to cross a river and return.

Brown said he relied on his past experience hiking and camping and felt confident in the couple's ability to survive.

"I believe when you go into the bush you take your life into your own hands and need to be prepared to handle whatever conditions occur," he said. "We could have been more prepared, but in the end we were prepared enough to walk ourselves out."

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