A man in Western North Carolina made an unusual decision over the weekend as snow and sleet pummeled the Blue Ridge Parkway, officials said.
He went camping.
The man, who was not identified, had to be rescued on the popular Art Loeb Trail near the Shining Rock Wilderness area on Sunday, Jan. 16, after he got stranded in Winter Storm Izzy, Haywood County Search & Rescue said in a Facebook post. According to Romantic Asheville, parts of the 30-mile Art Loeb trail in the Pisgah National Forest where the man was hiking are unmarked.
A team of six rescuers found the hiker mostly uninjured a few hours after the call came through.
“It sounds like mostly cold injuries, maybe some frost bite, that kind of thing,” Allison Richmond, spokesperson for Haywood County Emergency Services, told WLOS. “That’s not unexpected in this kind of weather when you just can’t get warm. Once you get wet, things get really cold, really fast.”
Search and Rescue said the man planned to hike and camp along the trail but realized as weather conditions deteriorated that it might be “more than he was prepared to handle.”
Temperatures lingered just above freezing with a wind chill of 27 degrees when rescuers received a call about the stranded hiker at 10:15 a.m., according to weather data gathered at the Jackson County Airport in nearby Sylva, North Carolina. Search and Rescue described road conditions at the time as “treacherous with less than 100 feet of visibility and a wintry mix of sleet and snow falling.”
The Blue Ridge Parkway had been closed to everyone but emergency vehicles for several days leading up to the storm’s arrival.
A six-person rescue team was on the parkway by 11:30 a.m., officials said.
Rescuers entered at the the Black Balsam trail head to search for the hiker using four-wheel drive trucks. But the team was halted by worsening weather conditions about two miles down Ivestor Gap Road, Haywood County officials said, and they were forced to continue on foot clad in snow shoes until they found the hiker.
“The hiker was in good spirits, despite the long night he just endured and was able to walk out on his own power alongside the team of rescuers,” Search and Rescue said.
Officials in Haywood County said members of its Mountain Rescue Team get intensive training “for winter rescue scenarios exactly like those they encountered on this mission.”
The Lake Logan Fire Department, Haywood County Emergency Services and Haywood County Emergency Management also helped with logistics during the rescue.