Hiker feared he may die in Tas wilderness

Bushwalker Michael Bowman (second left) has praised his rescuers as heroes.
Bushwalker Michael Bowman (second left) has praised his rescuers as heroes.

Huddled in a tent in freezing Tasmanian wilderness and keeping melting snow at bay with garbage bags, Michael Bowman didn't think he'd survive another night.

The hiker from Melbourne spent more than a week trapped in blizzard-like conditions after losing his pack containing supplies and his emergency beacon.

He was spotted on Tuesday afternoon by helicopter rescue crews, describing it as the happiest day of his life.

"I was standing there with my orange garbage bags, waving them around like a windmill," the 57-year-old said.

"They turned around and came back towards me. I saw the red and blue lights.

"I probably wouldn't have lasted too much more than another night because I was starting to get wet."

Mr Bowman, an experienced hiker, set out on a solo bushwalk from Lake St Clair on July 3.

An avid photographer, he set up camp at Mt Cuvier to do day walks but things went awry about 10 days ago at nearby Coal Hill.

He lost his pack in heavy fog and thick scrub after putting it down to look for his tripod and was forced to spend a freezing night underneath a rocky ledge.

He retraced his steps to his tent the next day but soon became snowed in.

The alert was raised by his sister on Saturday after he failed to report back from the trip, sparking an extensive search that was hampered by dangerous weather and heavy chest-deep snow.

In blizzard-like conditions, Mr Bowman wrapped himself in his sleeping bag and hoped rescuers would arrive.

"A couple of times I would wake up and my tent was sitting on my head from the snow," he described.

"Water started getting into the bottom. I was scraping out water a lot of the time and by then I had to cut a hole in the top of the tent to get out."

Mr Bowman said thoughts of his family helped kept him alive.

"My father is going through a bad time and for me to be up there, and then for this to happen ... you know you're alright but they don't know what's going on," he said.

"I just said I'm never going to give up. But if I die in the tent, I die in the tent. At least they're going to find my body."

Pilot Mark Allen said clouds cleared at the perfect moment for the helicopter crew to spot Mr Bowman and his tent.

It was their first inspection of that area, and their final pass for the day.

"If you think of flying in a plane like sailing in a harbour on a cruise boat, this was more like whitewater rafting," Mr Allen said.

Mr Bowman survived on small bits of frozen food and drank melted ice but the first thing he ate in the helicopter was a Snickers chocolate bar.

"I was that happy. I would have crawled," he said of meeting the rescue crew.

"Physically I was okay other than being a bit weak, but I probably could afford to lose a bit of weight so it didn't matter."

Rescuers believe Mr Bowman wouldn't have survived without his extensive experience.

He left his pack and camera gear on the mountain and will return to Victoria but says he plans to keep walking.

Australian Associated Press