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U.S. Students Survive 9 Days In New Zealand Blizzard

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(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two college students are safe after being trapped and stranded in freezing temperatures while hiking in the wilderness of New Zealand.

Alec Brown is from Inver Grove Heights and Erica Klintworth is from Green Bay, Wis. Both are students at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The students have spent the semester studying abroad in New Zealand.

The couple told friends they wanted to chill out in the hot springs at the national park and study for finals. They wound up trapped in a snow storm where temperatures dipped to 17 degrees.

After being found, Klintworth told reporters, “We were wearing hoodies, just not the type of thing you want to have stuck in a mountain storm.”

The two are experienced campers, so they rationed their food: One biscuit and jelly a day. They also heated themselves up in hot springs and slept in a plastic hammock to keep warm.

“Clearly we were pretty comfortable where we were and survived it no problem. We had all the right gear to get through it. We had clean fresh water and stayed warm and dry,” said Klintworth.

Search teams flew over the mountains looking for the pair. Brown and Klintworth had been gone nine days before finally being able to hike over a river to safety.

Alec’s mom and brother got word Sunday the two were found.

“I didn’t know how severe it was. She was really worried,” said Ian Brown, his brother.

Ian Brown said his brother didn’t realize people were searching for them and were simply waiting for the weather to calm down.

They even happened to have a little fun along the way.

“They found a few beers sat in the hot springs and drank beer in the snow.  Doesn’t sound too bad,” Ian said.

Ian told WCCO-TV the two don’t have much time to rest. They are busy cramming for finals at UW-Steven’s Point.

Brown and Klintworth will finish up with their study abroad program soon and they’re expected to be home in a couple of weeks.

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