August 14, 2018
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Hiker fell 60 feet from Precipice Trail at Acadia National Park

Courtesy of MDI Search & Rescue
Courtesy of MDI Search & Rescue
More than a dozen rescue volunteers helped an injured hiker get down from Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park. The rescue took more than eight hours.
By Bill Trotter and Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Updated:

After a Portland man fell 60 feet from a steep trail in Acadia National Park, rescuers spent eight hours getting him to safety.

The hiker suffered broken bones and lacerations, but his injuries are not considered life-threatening, park officials said Wednesday morning.

The 26-year-old man, whose name has not been released, fell Monday while hiking up the Precipice Trail on the East Side of Champlin Mountain. The trail is steep, with metal rungs protruding from the rock in several places to help hikers climb the cliff face.

“As he was climbing one of the technical rung sections of the trail, he was reaching up and grabbing a rock above him to step up and pull himself up on the next step,” park officials wrote in a news release. “The rock gave way and he fell, with the rock, an estimated 60 feet, somersaulting down.”

Rangers received phone calls about the incident around 6 p.m. Monday.

Because of heavy fog in the area, emergency responders were unable to use a helicopter to lift the man to safety.

Fourteen volunteers from MDI Search & Rescue plus park staff and Bar Harbor Fire Department personnel rigged rope systems that they used after finding the hiker on Precipice Trail, according to information released by the MDI group.

The work was arduous, said Wayne Wilson, 65, of Bar Harbor, who volunteers with MDI Search & Rescue.

“It’s the most difficult, dangerous trail in the park. Parts of it were very steep and rocky,” Wilson said Wednesday.

The rescuers used a rescue stretcher and at least six belays — ropes secured to rocks or trees by cleats — to keep rescuers and the hiker safe as they skirted the edge of several vertical trail edges. The rescuers formed a line on both sides of the rescue litter and rope system and passed it hand-to-hand as it slid along the rope, Wilson said.

Once rescuers handed it off, they would go from the back of the line to the front, as part of a rescue technique called caterpilling, Wilson said.

The last part of the rescue was especially challenging.

“A complex 300-foot-long guiding line (similar to a highline) system was constructed by MDISAR members to lower the patient 300 feet from the Orange and Black Trail to the Park Loop Road,” according to a statement released on Facebook. “Although MDISAR regularly trains with guiding/highline systems, this was the one of the first times it has been used during a rescue in Acadia.”

Thirty-six people were involved in the rescue effort, all of whom were off the trail by 1:50 a.m. Tuesday, park officials said. Acadia Mountain Guides also assisted in the rescue.

“We are very grateful to all the rescuers who worked together to get this visitor to medical attention,” Kevin Schneider, superintendent of the park, said in a prepared statement. “Having these highly trained and dedicated rescuers makes a significant difference when an accident of this nature occurs.”

Consisting of 30 members, 20 of them active participants, MDI Search & Rescue assisted in 12 rescues at Acadia or with the Maine Warden Service in 2017. It has done four or five carry-outs of Acadia this year, said Wilson, who handles the group’s record-keeping.

“That is who we work with most,” Wilson said. “We don’t have too many lost persons on the island. We occasionally assist Hancock County.”

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