DARRINGTON — Two hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail were flown to safety over the weekend in separate helicopter rescues west of Glacier Peak.
Both men used GPS beacons to call for help.
A Toronto man, 41, who was nearing the finish line of the 2,650-mile hike, sent a distress signal Saturday from the Kennedy Creek crossing. It’s one of the muddiest and roughest stretches of the trail from Mexico to Canada.
The man had fallen into a creek, and he was suffering from an intestinal illness. It was snowing. SnoHawk 10 took flight around 1 p.m. The crew found the man, hoisted him out and flew him to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett around 2:20 p.m., according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
“Had he stayed up there much longer, it could’ve been fatal,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.
Another man, 76, of Chelan, called for help with his locator beacon around 11:20 a.m. Sunday. Quickly, the SnoHawk 10 crew found some of his gear near White Mountain, but not the man. Another hiker helped in the search, and eventually the pilot found the man in the river valley of the North Fork Sauk River trail, on his way to the nearest trailhead, which is 9 miles off the Pacific Crest Trail. He’d fallen and suffered a head injury that seemed to cause him to lose his balance. He could no longer walk or stand on his own.
“Rescuers noted it was wise for him to keep moving, as temperatures had dropped into the 20s and it was snowing,” according to the sheriff’s office.
The injured man was a section hiker, going from the Lake Wenatchee area to Stehekin. He was flown to a waiting ambulance at Taylor’s Landing near Snohomish.
By the time northbound thru-hikers reach the remote Glacier Peak Wilderness, they tend to be about a week of hiking away from Canada. This time of year they’re weary and trying to complete the trek before harsh snowy weather arrives — which can be a recipe for serious injury or death.
The sheriff’s office offered the following advice:
• Hiking in the mountains in the fall means the weather can be unpredictable and change in a matter of minutes.
• Know the forecast before you hit the trail.
• Bring a map and compass and know how to use them.
• Even the most familiar of trails can easily disappear under a few inches of snow.
• Bring extra clothes and outer layers — more than you think you’ll need.
• Remember the sun sets earlier and earlier this time of year, especially in the mountains.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.