SURVIVAL FEAT: Zigi Georges with her rescuers Dr Dan Ewart, , Richard Mason and John Roberts, after the rescue.
SURVIVAL FEAT: Zigi Georges with her rescuers Dr Dan Ewart, , Richard Mason and John Roberts, after the rescue. Contributed

How yoga saved woman from an icy death

HALF frozen and barely alive a Coast woman used yoga to survive while trapped in a blizzard high in the Snowy Mountains.

When Zigi Georges headed out into the snowy expanse of Charlotte Pass in Kosciuszko National Park, the last thing on her mind was triggering a life and death rescue attempt.

The Noosa mature-aged athlete and yoga teacher was more intent on snapping some amazing late-season photographs on August 31, and now admits she should have paid closer attention to the forecasts of worsening weather.

Fortunately she was found half-frozen, against the odds, in the middle of a blizzard and Zigi is singing the praises of her "three Pygmy Possum Lodge heroes".

The trio of Richard Mason, Dr Dan Ewart and John Roberts set out to search for Zigi, around 3pm after she had set off her emergency location beacon.

Zigi said she would be forever grateful to her amazing rescuers, who used their local knowledge to search for her, despite local advice not to venture out in "violent" winds gusts of up to 100km/h in white-out conditions.

In often zero visibility, howling gales and sub-zero temperatures, they concentrated on checking out anything that might offer a glimmer of shelter near where the beacon signal was indicating.

The three eventually found her sheltering from the intense snow storm beside one of the block walls of the pill boxes scattered from Charlotte Pass towards the old Thredbo chairlift.

Importantly, Zigi had done her best to stay calm and maximise her chances of survival.

She had attempted to dig a snow cave with her snow shoes, with little success, so decided to do "a dance and song routine to maintain some body temperature".

"I was almost constantly engaging in yogic pranayama breathing to keep any panic away and generate some heat," Zigi said.

The rescue party then headed back for the lodge with Zigi intent on reaching the shelter of the lodge before nightfall, when the chances of survival would fall drastically in the darkness.

Zigi said the the weather "kept up blasting so that eyes could only scan a wall of snow all around".

They made it back around 6pm to be met by the flashing lights of ambulance and police vehicles.

Remarkably Zigi convinced authorities after a medical appraisal that what she needed more than a trip to Cooma Hospital for observation was a hot shower.

Zigi said she also owed her life to another person from the snow lodge who had convinced her to purchase the emergency beacon the season before.

She has learned some valuable lessons:

  • Do not become obsessed with photography, as I was, to the exclusion of noticing the weather worsening until almost too late to even help myself.
  • Be better prepared with gear and be able to use it, especially when walking alone, as I was.
  • Walk with two or more people whenever possible.