Despite the hot summer conditions throughout the U.S., it’s still winter in the southern hemisphere. And one lucky survivor has emerged from a month-long ordeal to remind us just how unforgiving the cold can be.

Two Czech tourists, Pavlina Pizova and Ondrej Petr, started their outdoor adventure in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s south island on July 26, but soon into their excursion the snow and low clouds hampered their visibility and turned their trip into a nightmare. The duo was forced to spend their first night in the park exposed to the elements, and on the following day, Petr lost his footing on an ice slope and fell to his death. Pizova spent her second night in the park, keeping a vigil over the body and on the third day, she found a park warden’s cabin and broke into it. After moving her friend’s remains to a site near the remote hut, she simply waited for help to come. For the better part of a month, Pizova waited for help which did not arrive, as none of the local authorities or park staff knew of the predicament. It wasn’t until a Czech Consul named Vladka Kennett spotted “a random Facebook post” from Pizova’s worried relatives, that a search was initiated.

Pizova had been very lucky, as the mountain hut was stocked with food, firewood, and all the needed supplies. And she told authorities that she had twice attempted to walk out of the park, but deep snows and the poor condition of her feet had prevented it. She even used wood ashes from the cabin’s stove to create the letter “H” in the snow as a signal for help, but no one was looking for it at the time.

The authorities stated that Pizova was “ecstatic” to be rescued and that she was found in good health, despite her situation. So what went right? She didn’t fall and she found a shelter full of provisions, which are both lucky occurrences indeed. And what went wrong? The biggest blunder that the duo made was heading into the wintery backcountry without anyone knowing their plans. When it takes a month for a search to be initiated, you clearly haven’t left word with anyone. Someone responsible needs to know where you are going, where you are parking, which route you are taking and when you should return. Then, if you miss your return date and time – a search can be mobilized quickly. It’s entirely possible that the helicopter that spotted Pizova’s activity at the cabin on day thirty could have spotted a couple stuck out in the snow on day two.

So what would you do? Self-rescue after a few days? Wait for help no matter how long it takes? Please tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment.