A bushwalker who planned to trek from Barren Grounds Nature Reserve in the Southern Highlands to Kiama has paid tribute to police who rescued him after he became lost on Sunday.
Keiraville resident David Harmer was dropped off at the entrance to the reserve by his wife on Sunday morning.
After going down several paths, then "bush bashing" through thick scrub along a route he had taken 12 years ago, Mr Harmer realised he was lost.
"There was a lot of rain, by about 3pm I think it was ... it was far slower going than I realised."
"I had to make a judgment call."
He managed to contact police before his mobile phone lost reception.
With daylight fading fast and his mobile phone battery dying, Mr Harmer began making preparations to stay the night on top of the mountain.
"I found a spot where I was out of the wind," he said.
After initially failing, his phone came back to life, and Mr Harmer was able to again make contact with police. Within half an hour, he saw the police helicopter Polair flying over the nature reserve.
Using what little battery he had left in his phone, Mr Harmer was able to direct the helicopter to where he was standing.
Unable to land due to the terrain, the helicopter was forced to hover - first to allow an officer off, and then again to allow the officer and Mr Harmer to scramble on board.
Mr Harmer said he felt "very silly and very relieved" after being rescued.
"By the time they got me back to the entrance where my friend met me ... it was pretty well dark so the window was very narrow," he said. "I was very fortunate."
Despite his misfortune, Mr Harmer didn't rule out tackling the trek again, although he plans to be more prepared next time.
"I wasn't as prepared as I should have been but I made a good decision not to leave it too late," he said.