Thirty-four-year-old German hiker Katharina Groene had spent nearly five months on the 2,650-mile long Pacific Crest Trail, a trip she said that was motivated in part by feeling that she was losing her faith in humanity, when she found herself trapped in snow on Washington’s Glacier Peak around 100 miles from the trail’s end at the Canada border. Her tarp, used to keep her tent dry, had been blown away in the heavy storm, leaving her clothes and sleeping bag soaking wet.
Barely able to progress through the thick snowpack, she started to run out of food and was forced to ration herself to one Pop-Tart per day. She had tried to call for help, but her cellphone had no service. Instead, she began recording farewell messages on her phone in which she apologized to friends and family for dying alone in the wilderness. At one point, her phone picked up some service and she was able to get through to her parents to tell them, “I’m dying.”
Unbeknownst to Groene, fellow hiker Nancy Abell, who had met Groene and hiked alongside her shortly before Groene found herself grounded by the late-October storm, was trying to save her life. Abell had tried to convince Groene, who was without snowshoes, to turn back. Groene, however, was adamant that she was going to finish what she started. After Abell returned home, she saw that forecasts were predicting a powerful storm and two to three feet of snow. She reached out to a local hiking forum to see if anyone had seen Groene, but the last sighting of the hiker had been days prior. On Sunday night, Abell was unable to sleep due to a gnawing fear about what might have happened to her.
After estimating how far Groene might have traveled, she called 911 in the morning and gave search and rescue officers a location to start searching. According to Sgt. John Adams of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit, Abell’s guess about Groene’s location “ended up being right on.”
After a difficult rescue that almost had to be aborted due to lack of a flat landing surface and low fuel, the search team recovered Groene and brought her to safety. Speaking to reporters, the hiker thanked the rescue team, and reserved special mention to the woman whose concern for her safety helped save her life.
“My faith in humanity is definitely restored,” said Groene. “So box checked.”
Below, watch as Groene and Abell talk about the ordeal and avoiding a fatal outcome.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.