While statistically low, medical emergencies do happen on the trails and hiking with a group increases the odds of a positive outcome. Hiking Buddies members have hosted nearly a thousand hikes and two of them had medical emergencies. Read their stories:
Laura Ray Chandler
"As an avid hiker, I was interested in hiking the Kinsmans. I was trying to get another 48 or two off my list. I had seen the Hiking Buddies NH 48 Facebook group and had joined it months before, but I had not yet joined a hike. I saw the posting for a buddy hike on Monday, February 21 and the pace fit my hiking pace. I often hiked solo, but I took a leap.
The hike was being organized by a member named John and it looked like there were going to be five of us all together; me, John, James, Lisa and Crystal. I was nervous. I didn’t know these people. Would we actually be the same pace? Would we have anything in common? I had no idea what to expect, but upon arriving John immediately put me at ease.
The first thing we did after introductions was to talk about the appropriate gear and to make sure that we all had the 10 essentials, rather than relying on other people to have what we lacked. Safety was foremost in the conversation. Then we discussed the route and the pace, and we set off.
It was a beautiful morning. The snow just made everything all the more beautiful, and the path was well traveled so we only needed microspikes. We had all brought snowshoes just in case. The hike was fairly uneventful and pleasant, and I really enjoyed the company and the conversation on the trail. Getting to know my new Hiking Buddies was fun. We hiked up to the hut and checked it out together. Then we continued on. That is when things got much tougher.
We were on the Fishing Jimmy trail and there were definitely some very icy spots. I had read about this trail and I was aware that it could be tricky, which made me all the more thankful I was with a group. I had done a solo hike the day before - an easy hike up Mount Willard - but this was definitely not Mount Willard. There were some spots that were very tricky to navigate and I was grateful for my spikes and poles.
When we were about 3 miles up the trail, we approached ice covered boulders we had to go up. Apparently the ice was not thick enough for my spikes or my strength wasn’t enough to get me up over the boulder. I had all of my weight on my left leg, and my foot slipped, twisting under my right leg as i fell. It happened so fast. I landed firmly on my left hip and slid off the trail about 5 or 10 feet. The pain was immediate and incredibly intense. It felt like I had torn my adductor muscle. I could not move at all without excruciating pain. I can't put into words how much it hurt.
Although I was prepared to spend the night on the trail by myself, and had everything I needed, I couldn’t move to get any of the things I needed. The pain was so intense, and I continued to slide down the decline inadvertedly. I had muscle spasms from the fall, which caused waves of agony and sharp pain in my left leg. Needless to say, the hike came to an end at that point when it was determined that I was unable to walk at all.
The buddies continued to offer support and concern. At that point all the focus was on stabilizing me so I would not continue to slide - which would cause me to react by trying to stop myself. That reaction caused me intense pain. To keep me from sliding down the trail, John and James used a safety rope which they tied it around me and then fashioned it around the tree, and I literally hung on the trail helplessly while we figured out next steps.
We had cell service and John also had an emergency beacon or something like that. With a cell phone he was able to call 911, which got us connected with Search and Rescue or Fish and Game. I’m not sure which. At that point, my new hiking buddy saviors were able to get John’s sleeping pad underneath me to get me off the snow. All the while, I kept thinking about the solo hike I did the day before. If this had happened on that hike, I would not have been able to save myself.
John relayed the details of the fall and what we understood about my injury and a team was dispatched to hike up the trail to come and get me. My group kept my spirits up by checking on me when I got really quiet and comforted me when I cried out in pain. They even called my friend to update her. And somehow, in the midst of a terrible incident, we even laughed a few times which kept me sane.
I prayed continually to God and thanked Him for those that were with me, helping me, and those that were coming to rescue me. My constant prayer calmed my body and my mind and I believe is in large part why I did not go into shock. It took about three hours for the rescue team to reach me.
To say that I am grateful that I was not alone is an understatement. What started as my first ever "Buddy Hike" changed my life dramatically and resulted in a broken hip, requiring immediate surgery and several months of rehabilitation. It was ultimately determined I would need a full hip replacement.
My buddies continually check in with me even now, encouraging me through my journey of recovery. James said when I’m ready to hike the Kinsmans again, he would do it with me. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever mentally be able to hike like that, at least not in the winter. However, I am eternally grateful for my new buddies and I encourage everyone I know that hikes to join a Buddy Hike because no matter how prepared you are you could end up in a situation where you can’t help yourself.
I was very lucky. I could have died of hypothermia that day. Ten months and three surgeries later, I have a new hip, a new respect for winter hiking, a stronger relationship with God, and a huge appreciation for my Hiking Buddies"
- Laura Ray Chandler
"I was leading a group of 1st Time Facebook Buddy Hikers to summit Mt. Pierce. The team had never previously joined a “Buddy Hike” - there was a mix of first-time hikers, hikers that had never been in the Whites, as well as experienced 4K hikers.
We were having a fantastic day… we had some laughs, interesting conversations learning about each other, good interactions with hikers who stayed at Mizpah Spring Hut, and even fed Gray Jays.
We stopped by the Mizpah Hut, to grab water, take a bio break, and have some chocolate cake!
We then headed up the trail for the short .08 mi trek to summit Mt. Pierce… and that’s when things became interesting. I am a consistent 1.0 / 1.3 mph hiker, but I began to realize that I was becoming fatigued… having to stop for rest breaks, and quickly becoming exhausted.
I knew something was wrong… for the next hour plus, I continued to try to “shake it off” … maybe it was dehydration or low calories…. Nothing was working. But, I had the good fortune to be hiking with a Cardiac Nurse (unbelievable!) who was able to provide the insights; I was experiencing a Cardiac episode and that I would need to get to a higher level care…
Becoming a patient was a very humbling experience. As many of you know, I am always the person rendering aid to my fellow hikers - cuts, scrapes, dehydration, twisted ankles, broken ankles, broken hips. I am always “Johnny-on-the-spot” who always has something in his pack to “save the day”. But, now, I needed to rely on the kindness of strangers to help me in my time of need.
With the help of my Hiking Buddies, we developed a plan to alert Search & Rescue of the situation.
Again, with the support of my Hiking Buddies, I was able to reach the summit (slowly) so I could get help and where I had the ability to “stretch out” and wait for the rescue team to arrive.
First on site was a team from the Mizpah Spring Hut, who coordinated the rescue via two-radio, and offered additional supplies. So my Hiking Buddies team could get down before nightfall, the Mizpah Spring Hut team continued to stay with me until I was airlifted by the Army National Guard to the Littleton Hospital.
It’s truly amazing to see firsthand how the hiking community comes together to support someone …
Thank you to my Hiking Buddies for allowing me to throw a plot twist into our day…. the Team from Mizpah Spring Hut, NH Fish and Game, the NH Army National Guard, and the staff at Littleton Hospital. By my count, there were 21 different people that directly helped me… this doesn’t include all of the hikers that passed by the summit of Mt. Pierce who paused their hike to offer some assistance and words of encouragement.
Rarely do negative incidents occur. But they can and do. Never think they can't happen to you. I reflect on how fortunate I was to be in the company of Hiking Buddies, a group of strangers, meeting each other for the first time and taking on the challenge to summit a mountain. I used to be a “solo hiker” … hike my own hike, travel at my own pace. Now, it’s abundantly clear, that having a Hiking Buddy by your side is not only a lot of fun, but it’s a true lifesaver!
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