June 24, 2018
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Injured Acadia hiker rescued after being stranded alone for five hours

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A man hiking alone early Wednesday morning up Cadillac Mountain who fell and injured his hip waited for five hours before another hiker came along and was able to call for help, according to park officials.

The man, whose name is not being released, is 65 years old and a Maine resident, Ranger Richard Rechholtz said Wednesday. The man had set out around 3:30 a.m. on the South Ridge trail near Blackwoods Campground with the goal of reaching the summit by sunrise, Rechholtz said.

At around 5 a.m., about a mile from the summit, the man slipped on a patch of ice on the trail and injured his hip, possibly breaking it, according to the ranger. The hiker had a flashlight and was wearing sturdy boots, but was not wearing crampons or any other type of traction footwear to help prevent him from slipping, the ranger said.

“Cadillac Mountain still has a fair amount of snow [and] a lot of patches of ice,” Rechholtz said. “Hiking alone is not good this time of year.”

He said the man had told someone he would return from his hike by noon. The man may have had a cell phone, too, Rechholtz said, but if he did was unable to get it to work after hurting himself.

The hiker was dressed adequately for the conditions and, though he was cold, he did not develop hypothermia while waiting for help, the ranger said. He fell near some vegetation that helped shield him from the wind, but it wasn’t until around 10 a.m., when a female hiker with a working cell phone came upon him next to the trail, that rangers heard about the injury.

“Look how long he laid there,” Rechholtz said, warning about the dangers of hiking alone in winter. “He’s very lucky she came across him.”

The rangers’ response was complicated by the fact that the woman’s first call was cut off and, as a result, all rangers knew initially was that a man was injured somewhere on the park’s tallest mountain. A subsequent call a few minutes later provided rangers with a more precise location on the South Ridge Trail, the ranger said.

The location is fairly remote, and rangers decided it would be faster to drive up to the summit and hike down the trail from there to the injured man than to hike up from the bottom of the trail, according to Rechholtz. However, the summit road on Cadillac and the portion of the Park Loop Road that connects it to Route 233 in Bar Harbor are not plowed in the winter, which can make it difficult to get to the top.

Another ranger was able to drive a four-wheel drive vehicle all the way up the summit road, but still did not get to the man to administer first aid until around 11 a.m., an hour after rangers first were contacted, Rechholtz said. Another rescue vehicle that tried to drive to the top of the mountain got stuck in a snow drift, which prompted rangers to call out a park snow plow to plow the road.

Dubious that an ambulance would be able to make the drive, rangers decided to contact LifeFlight helicopter instead. After rangers and members of Mount Desert Island Search & Rescue carried the man to the summit in a litter, LifeFlight picked him up at the Blue Hill overlook parking area near the summit and flew him to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Rechholtz said.

“It was around a three-hour rescue,” he said.

Rechholtz stressed that people should take extra precautions when hiking in Acadia in the winter. He recommended hikers go with other people, take extra clothing and supplies that you might need if you get delayed and to wear crampons.

“All the rescuers had crampons on [and helmets, too],” Rechholtz said. “This time of year, anything can happen.”

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