A day hike nearly turned deadly for an Idaho man who fell down an icy slope on Indian Mountain in Southeast Idaho.
According the the Idaho State Journal, the hiker has been identified as Gary Fitzgerald Jr. He was hiking alone on March 2 when he fell about 200 feet down the icy slope. He says his backpack helped slow him down as he fell down the slope.
“My backpack is what actually stopped me from going all the way down,” Fitzgerald said.
He sustained knee and shoulder injuries during the fall.
“I had a lot of pain in my knee and I was just trying to figure out what to do next,” he said.
Thankfully, he was within cell phone range and was able to call 911.
However, he was trapped on the slope for nearly five hours before rescuers were able to get to him. Meanwhile, the temperature was dropping quickly and Fitzgerald did what he could to stay alive.
“I knew it was going to take a while for them to get to me,” Fitzgerald stated. “I hunkered down by a bush and did what I could to make a small fire.”
Due to the rugged terrain, the Portneuf Medical Center helicopter was unable to land on the ridge. The pilot circled around and made the decision to land below Fitzgerald.
Members of the Search and Rescue team used 4-wheelers to get close to Fitzgerald, but they still had to hike for half an hour to reach him. It was close to 9 p.m. when the rescuers finally got to him. According to the Idaho State Journal, the rescuers used a stretcher and ropes to lower Fitzgerald to the waiting helicopter.
Fitzgerald was airlifted to the Portneuf Medical Center, where he was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.
Rescuers say he would have likely frozen to death if he didn’t have cell phone reception.
The situation could have turned out much differently for Fitzgerald, and he is lucky to be alive.
His story serves as a reminder that it is important to be prepared for the unexpected, even if you’re just going on a short day hike.
Before you head out on a hike, familiarize yourself with the area. It is easy to get disoriented in the wilderness, especially if you take a tumble down a slope and you’re unable to find your way back to the trail. Carry a GPS, map and/or compass to help you get your bearings if you get lost.
Let your friends or family members know where you’re planning to hike and how long you’ll be gone. Pack a survival kit that includes a knife, fire-starting tools, an emergency blanket, a first aid kit and a signal mirror. These basic supplies will provide the tools necessary to help you survive if you’re faced with unexpected circumstances.