Steve Ainsworth was nearing the final legs of his reverse thru-hike (southbound) of the Appalachian Trail when he ran into remnants of Hurricane Sandy, and became trapped by heavy snow somewhere between the Pecks Corner and Tricorner Knob shelters. With drifts reaching up to five-feet high, dwindling food and water supplies, and hypothermia setting in, Ainsworth was forced to call 911 on Thursday, telling rescuers that he may not be able to walk out.
Although rangers tried to make contact with Ainsworth on foot that day, they too were slowed by the heavy snows.
On Friday, November 2nd, a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter that had been called in to assist rangers with search and rescue efforts was able to retrieve the hiker from the backcountry and transport him to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport in Sevierville, Tennessee. From there, he was taken by ambulance to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville for medical evaluation.
Although he told rescuers that his feet felt like "blocks of ice", Ainsworth noted on his online journal that "his feet were in pretty good shape with no frost bite".
On his Trails Journal page, Ainsworth posted this comment yesterday:
I've laid low today, and will continue to, in order to let my feet recover. I'm tired in all ways but doing well. I will not be making any decisions about whether or when I might return to the AT for a while. The doctor advised that I not expose my feet to cold for at least one month and I need to work through all of this.You can read all his postings during his thru-hike, including the days leading up to his rescue by clicking here.
Below is some video of the rescue from ABC:
Hiking in the Smokies