Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Overdue hiker in Smokies is located

Some of you may have heard about the missing hiker in the Smokies who was located on Sunday. A report on this morning's NPS Digest has provided more details on Chad Hunter's multi-day ordeal:

A major, week-long search for missing backpacker Chad Hunter came to a happy conclusion Sunday evening when he showed up at the Tricorner Knob Shelter on the Appalachian Trail, and hikers there notified park dispatch.

A three-person NPS team, including two medics, immediately set out for the shelter, arriving there at 2:30 a.m. They treated Hunter for minor injuries and dehydration and provided him with warm clothing and equipment. Because of the remote location, a decision was made to evacuate Hunter on Monday by helicopter instead of via a large ground carryout operation. An NPS helicopter sent to the site was unable to land due to high winds, so a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter with a hoist was used instead. Hunter was lifted out, flown to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport, and reunited with his family. He was then taken by Sevier County ambulance to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville for evaluation and treatment. Rangers accompanied Hunter to the hospital to debrief him on his ordeal in the Smokies.

Hunter had originally planned to complete a four-day hike on Thursday. His family reported him missing on Friday.

Hunter told the rangers that he’d spent the night of Monday, March 14th, at Campsite 32 as scheduled and on Tuesday hiked into Greenbrier up the Ramsey Cascades Road to the Ramsay Cascades Trail to its end at the falls. He climbed past the falls and hiked cross-country along Ramsay Prong for about half a mile, but found the going very steep, rocky, and blocked by obstructions, so he decided to make his way up towards the ridgeline instead.

By Tuesday night he realized that he was off course and he camped that night with his sleeping bag and other gear.

On Wednesday, he made extremely slow progress due to dense rhododendron and estimated that it had taken him six to seven hours to cover just over a half mile. At that point he decided to abandon his pack because it was continually snagging on the heavy brush, slowing his progress. He hoped that without his pack he could make faster time and reach his goal of Tricorner Shelter more easily.

On Wednesday evening, he reached a relatively flat and somewhat open area, where he stayed until Sunday morning. During this time, he had only the clothes he was wearing plus a fanny pack with a little food and a headlamp – but no sleeping bag or other overnight gear. He said that he melted snow for water until Sunday, but had no other food after his small supply ran out. On Sunday morning, he set out first light; he considered going back down, but chose to continue up to the AT instead, ending up at the shelter.


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