As a rescue helicopter whipped above the New Zealand wilderness over the weekend, Carolyn Lloyd's desperate plea caught the pilot's eye.

She had written "H-E-L-P" — first in a riverbed, then again in a nearby field on North Island, where she and her daughter were lost for five terrifying days, according to the Associated Press.

She had formed the large letters using stones and fern fronds in an attempt to save them from death.

"They were certainly keen to make their presence known," Jason Diedrichs, a pilot with Amalgamated Helicopters, later told the New Zealand Herald. "They were a little bit worse for wear — they'd been in there for four nights out in the open with very little food, so they were definitely feeling the effects of that."

"They were physically and mentally very tired," he added, "so it's fair to say they were pretty pleased to see us."

Carolyn Lloyd, a Charlotte, N.C., resident, had been visiting her 22-year-old daughter, Rachel Lloyd, a North Carolina State University graduate who was studying abroad at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, according to the AP.

Rachel Lloyd wanted to show her mother the sights, so the two set out early last week for Tararua Forest Park, a conservation park in New Zealand's Wellington region.

They took the Kapakapanui Track, "one of the best viewpoints in the Tararua Range," according to New Zealand's Department of Conservation.

With little more than water, cheese and mixed nuts, the two followed orange markers to the summit and soaked up some sun before attempting to make their descent, according to the AP.

On the way down, they couldn't find the orange markers, so they followed blue ones — later realizing it was probably a path for pest control.

"It got very steep, very jungly," Rachel Lloyd later told the news agency. "The markers completely stopped after about 20 minutes, but it was so steep it was physically impossible to climb back up."

Soon, the mother and daughter found themselves on a ledge overlooking a 600-foot waterfall, the AP reported. As the sun slipped away and temperatures dropped to about 40 degrees, they clung to a tree — trying to stay warm and awake on the treacherous terrain so they would not roll to the bottom.

Carolyn Lloyd later told her husband that she'd been "frightened to death."

"She stayed awake all night and held my daughter to keep her warm," he told the New Zealand Herald.

The mother-and-daughter's five-day fight for life had begun.

The next day, the two climbed down from the ledge and started to follow a steep and slippery stream at the waterfall's feet — hoping it would be their guide.

Rachel Lloyd slipped and fell head-first into the frigid water, slamming her head on a rock, she later told the AP.

"That's when I started going downhill," she told the news agency. "I could never get dry and couldn't get warm the rest of the trip."

Hypothermia started to set in, she told Radio New Zealand.

She said she lost her hearing, her sight and then the feeling in her legs.

"We knew I was going to go first," she told the radio station, adding that she started telling her mother her "dying wishes."

"My mom was basically watching me die, which was really, really hard."

Her mother tried to get them to civilization, toting their snack sack on her front and her daughter, piggyback-style, on her back.

Back in Charlotte, Barry Lloyd was concerned, saying he had been unable to reach his wife and daughter since they had set out for a walk in the woods.

Their cellphones had lost reception and power.

He was in contact with emergency crews, he said, and his sons had flown home, ready to travel with him to the other side of the world.

"My daughter was getting weaker," he later told the New Zealand Herald, after speaking with his wife. "She doesn't have a lot of extra meat on her bones — and she couldn't walk, so my wife told me she was carrying her on her back, trying to walk back up the mountains."

By the third day, she was unable to continue.

"She's one of these people who can eat every two hours and just burn it off," he said. "But she didn't have any fuel in her body so she couldn't go any farther."

It was Day 4 and Carolyn Lloyd said she was desperate for ideas.

"I was terrified as a mother," she told the AP. "I was doing everything I could to keep her alive."

She put her worries into words — writing "help" in hopes that someone would see it and come save them.

The helicopter hovered overhead Saturday, and the two women shouted and waved it down.

"To be honest, we were pretty relieved," Diedrichs, the rescue pilot, told the AP.

Rachel Lloyd was taken to Wellington Hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia and undernourishment.

After the rescue, Sgt. Anthony Harmer of Wellington Police Search and Rescue told the New Zealand Herald that the women had done everything they could to survive.

"They've been caught out unawares in their circumstances through no fault of their own," he said. "It's a New Zealand environment as opposed to other environments they've been used to. They've done all the right things — they've stayed together, they've conserved their heat, they've conserved their resources — so they gave themselves the best chance possible."

Rachel Lloyd said that as soon as she and her mother were able, they phoned family members back home.

"We called my dad and he was so wonderful — just to hear his voice, I never thought I would hear it again," she told Radio New Zealand. "He couldn't even formulate words, he was just blubbering."

"It was very emotional. I wish I could give him a big hug," she added.

She said she plans to continue her classes in New Zealand.