Rescue on the Long Trail I: The Fall

What follows is the original write up of the events, written a couple of days after the event. I have chosen to leave as it is, but include some photos and context below.

I’m writing this as a separate note should you be interested in reading my first ever experience of serious risk while doing outdoor activities.

The facts are roughly as follows.

1.- Friday 9 August I started hiking at Laura Woodward shelter, on Vermont’s Long Trail, and hope to get as far as either Hazen’s Notch Camp or Tillotson Camp (that’s roughly 9 or 15 miles walk).

2.- I arrived at Hazen’s Notch at 2:20 pm. It was clear it would start raining any time, but I figured I could walk ca. 4 hrs in the rain and get to Tillotson. This would help me get to town sooner, plus I didn’t fancy staying at Hazen’s so long.

3.- I descended into Hazen’s Notch proper, crossed the road, and began hiking up Haystack mountain. That’s around 400 m elevation gain with very steep terrain full of ledges, slabs and slippery roots. Worse – the downpour had begun and I was soaked in no time. Physically I was doing OK.

4.- After about 1.5 hrs hiking from the road I slipped on wet but not especially tricky terrain and fell forward. I cried out loud, obviously out of pain, but also because I immediately realized that something serious was going on, and that I was in a very vulnerable position.When I checked my left ankle I was amazed at how swollen it was, and assumed I had sprained it.

5.- My position: 5:30 pm, meaning not much chance of hikers finding me that evening. Plenty of food in my backpack. About a litre of water – not a lot, but enough to spend the night. A one-man tent but not a lot of space to pitch it on. Only one working leg to walk on. No cell phone.

6.-Here’s what I did. Swallow some ibuprofen, then pitch the tent as best as I could, and quickly as it was still raining. Get inside, relax and get warm. Eat a cold meal and drink a bit of water, then put all the food in my bear bag and leave it outside the tent. (No energy for hanging it up a tree this time). And think.

7.-Luckily I’m the rational type of guy, so I figured out a schedule based on the likelihood I would meet hikers going Northbound or Southbound the day after.

Option A- Ideally, I’d meet NB hikers any time between 9 and 11, assuming any had slept at Tillotson’s.

Option B- I should meet a party of 5 hikers that were going SB like me, only slower.

Option C- No one shows up (say the hikers leave the trail via the road) and I have to wait an extra day. Not ideal, as there was no water source nearby other than rain.

8.- I said some prayers and yelled “hello there” whenever I suspected a bear or other animal might be getting closer to my food bag. The night was not too bad – dry and warm and I did catch some sleep.

To be continued – here!

Steep climbing en route to Jay Peak
Jay Peak ski resort
What a horrible day to hike!
On the summit of Jay Peak (3968 ft)
Hazen's Notch Camp
Hazen’s Notch shelter. Photo credit: