Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Foreign Visitor Fractures Leg on Chimney Tops Trail

Last week Kathy and I spent several days hiking in the Smokies. On Tuesday, our first day in the park, we decided to hike the Chimney Tops Trail. As we were putting our gear together I noticed three people standing near Newfound Gap Road trying to flag someone down. They were finally able to stop a road construction vehicle, and after a few seconds, the truck sped away. I had no idea what was going on, so I continued packing my backpack.

One of girls among this group noticed we were getting ready to take off, and approached us. She told us there was a woman on the trail who broke her leg and needed a rescue. She wanted us to tell the woman that emergency services had been contacted, and help was on the way.

As we climbed up the trail we found out from hikers coming down the mountain (the old information superhighway) that the woman was from Italy, and didn't speak a word of English. Finally, after hiking about a mile-and-a-half up the trail, on one of worst sections of trail in terms of rocks, uneven surfaces, mud and water, we finally reached the injured woman. She was sitting on a rock with her husband, who didn't speak any English either. Fortunately they were with a companion who spoke a little English, at least enough to get by. There was also a woman there that had some advanced first aid training. She told us the woman, likely in her 60s, suffered a compound fracture of her lower leg (tibia). Believe it or not, but the injured woman was hiking the trail in ladies flats!

After relaying our information that help was on the way, and making sure that she had enough clothes to keep herself warm, or seeing if she needed any Ibuprofin, we continued towards the summit. After about a half-hour or so we began our return trip back down the mountain. By that time emergency personnel had already arrived, and were just beginning to move her down the mountain on a stretcher. Interestingly, the stretcher had a mountain bike wheel attached to it, allowing the rescuers to move fairly rapidly down the mountain. In fact, they were moving almost as fast as we were.

We arrived back at the trailhead at almost the same time as the rescue party. Here they transported the woman to an ambulance. In addition to local emergency medical personnel, the Great Smoky Mountains Search and Rescue operations team played a major part in the rescue as well.

We couldn't help but think that this family had to be extremely disappointed in having to deal with a situation like this while traveling abroad. Hopefully the woman is doing much better now, and is already at home.

As a result of this hike we have updated the Chimney Tops Trail page on our website.

Hiking in the Smokies

1 comment:

Tent UK said...

The Smokies, although beautiful, can be deadly if you don't take the right equipment and precautions.

Hiking a mountain trail in flats is a bad idea at the best of times, never mind if you are around 60 years old!

Glad everyone made it back down safe and I hope that the experience didn't put them off hiking these glorious trails!