[This text follows from Rescue on the Long Trail: The Fall]
9.- Luckily, option A [Northbound hikers coming from Tillotson] turned out to be correct and two hikers showed up at around 10:15.
“Do you need help?”, the girl asked
“You bet” I nodded, with the lost puppy look.
10.- E. and C., students at the Uni of Vermont. I thank God it was them, then and there. E. pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911, giving amazingly precise directions and descriptions to the operators she talked to. Reception was shaky but calls could be made. More so, they cooked some hot soup for me. Yummy.
11.- Shortly after, a rescue team started hiking up the mountain the same way I’d done it the previous evening. First guy to show up was Bill, a medical doctor, shortly followed by Doug, a firefighter. Bill stabilized my ankle by putting it into some sort of pressure bag, measured blood pressure and asked me some questions. They said more guys were on the way, pulling up the stretcher. It took them like two hours to hike up.
12.- I shared some of my food with E. and C., and asked them to keep going for their own good, thanking them a million times. The other members of the rescue team showed up eventually, and by 2 pm I was on the stretcher and ready to go.
13.- The 7 hrs that followed were an intense mix of hardship, lack of any kind of comfort and, in a weird way, fun. The guys decided that it was impossible to bring me down the way they had gone up – apparently, they’d had a really tough time to bring up the stretcher over all those ledges and slippery rock faces. So they decided to hike the other way (approx. 4 miles).
Soon enough they (or, rather, we) realized that this would be quite an ordeal. The going was slow as hell, as the trail was narrow, slippery, and full of obstacles. Very often, a pulley had to be set up in order to lower me down or pull me up a ledge. Scary, only I could only see tree-tops and sky.
14.- The guys were fun, sometimes funny, and had a strong esprit de corps. It felt like it was a true event up there – like they were finally being asked to apply many of the techniques they’d see on training courses. Many (most?) of then were not professionals, but volunteers, and many were not in shape – at least hiking shape. For the record, these folks were coming from up to three different squads: Jay, Troy and Nowell.
15.- Luckily, more manpower gradually joined, up to a point when there must have been around 25-30 people surrounding me. Almost like a religious procession of faithful taking a leper to bathe in the Ganges, if that makes any sense. When eventually we got to Tillotson camp, some hiker there took pictures of us. You’ll be on Facebook tonight, a firefighter joked.
16.- After Tillotson, the trail got easier and we picked up some speed. The rope was needed less and less, and the wheel could be used in order to pull me away more easily and get me to the ambulance that was waiting at the trailhead.
17.- Only, of course, Vermont’s weather wanted to bid me adieu in a more fitting way and so the downpour resumed after a quiet afternoon. The guys welcomed the shower – not me, as I got soaked yet again and had to stop the rain from beating my eyes.
18.- Night came and eventually we saw lights – truly the light at the end of the tunnel. An ambulance and some firefighter’s trucks, although lying on the stretcher I didn`t get the best views. I saw some camera flashes – apparently the local media were there. I thanked the guys again and apologized for ruining their Saturday.
You know, these guys could have been complaining, but they’d be happy to do it tomorrow again, Bill said later.
19.- Once Bill and the driver managed to get the AC down and cover me with towels and blankets, the ride in the ambulance was as smooth as could be desired.
20.- After a half hour, we got to Newport Northern Country Hospital Emergencies Department, where I received fast, efficient and friendly medical care. Plus Francine, my mother in law, was waiting for me with her car and some supplies (drinks, dry clothing). Thank you to her, thank you to all of them. Vermont weather sure can suck, but people there rock.
This is as far as it goes for the facts. Hopefully I’ll publish yet another note in order to analyze what I did wrong (most) and well (some), in order to clarify my thoughts and be able to help other hikers in the future.
Thank you for reading, too.
[My analysis of the events here]