ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Using a rope suspended from a helicopter, park rangers and Maine Forest Service rescue workers safely plucked a hiker off Beehive Mountain on Wednesday after she was unable to get down.
The 52 year-old Maine resident had made it about one-third of the way up the steep face trail on the Beehive when she had to stop at about 3 p.m., according to Acadia National Park Ranger Richard Rechholtz. The woman experienced heart and mobility problems and was unable to continue climbing up or back down, he said.
In keeping with the park’s policy about visitors who need medical assistance, Rechholtz did not release the woman’s name.
Because of the location on the trail of where the woman had stopped, rangers wanted to avoid trying to secure her in a litter and raising or lowering her down with ropes, Rechholtz said. Doing so would have been very technically difficult regardless of whether they tried to take her up or down the steep trail, which includes iron rungs anchored into the mountainside, he said.
“We need to look at a patient’s needs and the risk to rescuers” when evaluating how to respond to a medical emergency, Rechholtz added.
Rangers contacted Maine Forest Service and, after state forest rangers assessed the situation, they agreed to use a forest service helicopter outfitted with a “short-haul” rope-and-harness configuration to carry the woman to safety, Rechholtz said.
With a “short-haul” configuration, a rope 100 feet long is clipped to a helicopter and used to lift a person into the air and carry him or her a short-distance away, according to the park ranger. A member of the response team is harnessed to the bottom of the rope and, using a separate harness, safely fastens the person being rescued to the rope before they are carried off together.
On Wednesday, the Maine Forest Service helicopter flew the hiker to the Schooner Head overlook, where a Bar Harbor Fire Department ambulance was waiting for her. After she was lowered to the ground, ambulance personnel took her to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor to be evaluated and treated, the national park ranger said.
Rechholtz said Acadia rangers have been assisted before by a Bangor-based Maine Army National Guard medevac helicopter team, which is equipped with a cable hoist system for lifting people on board. Wednesday’s rescue was the first time a fixed “short-haul” system was used to lift a park visitor to safety, he added.
“This is just another tool [for rescuing people],” Rechholtz said. “It’s great to have something like this in the state of Maine.”
Mount Desert Island Search & Rescue also assisted in the rescue effort, which took about three hours to complete, he said.
The park ranger emphasized that hikers should take precautions and try to assess or learn about the trails they plan to use ahead of time, to make sure the trails are not too challenging for their capabilities. He said information about many trails in Acadia and others in Maine can be found at the Maine Trail Finder website.
Even if people don’t have time to go online, if they travel into the park and are still unsure, they should consult with other hikers who are coming off the trail, he added.
“Ask people how difficult it is,” Rechholtz said. “This might not have been the correct trail for her to choose.”