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Update: Three Appalachian Trail Hikers Need Rescue In Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Editor's note: This updates with plans to use a helicopter to pull the trio out of the backcountry.

Winter's latest punch to the East caught three Appalachian Trail hikers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park unprepared and needing to be rescued by rangers, who called in a helicopter to lift the three out.

The three men from Gaffney, South Carolina, -- Shawn Hood, Steven White, and Jonathan Dobbins -- had set out from Fontana Dam on Thursday with plans for a ten-day hike. But last night they called rangers to say they were cold and wet and needed help as they were unable to walk and had no shelter.

Responding rangers were able to reach the trio -- all between the ages of 21 and 32 -- and brought dry clothing and tents.

"They are being treated for hypothermia and possible frostbite. All three are very weak and cannot walk," said Kent Cave, the park's supervisory ranger. "Plans have been made to extricate the hikers using a helicopter from the North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team (HART) early this afternoon."

Overnight temperatures in the park were reported to be "in the single digits and winds gusting to 35 miles per hour made wind chills near 20 degrees below zero," the park reported. "Blowing snow created drifts up to two feet. Rescue efforts were hampered by weather, road, and trail conditions, as well as the remote, rugged location. The men were located some 5 miles from the nearest trailhead."


It never seases to amaze me how stupid outdoors people can be. These are the type of hikers who should be charged for their rescue.

Cotton wearing idiots. In the old days, before cell phones, they would learn a valuable lesson and probably get out and never make such a mistake ever again. Unfortunately, in that area, there is spotty cell service at the Shuckstack tower so I'm sure they likely got hold of the NPS, who now toot their own horns and describe this as a dramatic rescue. Which it isn't.

I can't imagine a 10 day hike trhough the Smokys at this time of year with-out a weather report. Its not like this storm caught us by suprise. I agree they should pay for the cost of their rescue.

Given the combination of the weather conditions described in the story and the condition of the two hikers, I'd say they were very fortunate that help arrived when it did. The hike in by rescuers under those same conditions would not have been easy or pleasant, and while some may scoff at the effort, I'm happy to offer kudos to all those involved.

I didn't see 'cotton' mentioned. It's a good guess, but just that. Also, I'm not willing to let a pre-existing prejudice against the NPS in general flavor my opinion of the task of the rescuers.

Rick, they were wearing cotton items. From a recent update from the park: "The men were reported wearing mostly cotton clothing, which provides little or no warmth when wet. "

Last year I asked what responsibilities visitors have when they go in the backcountry. We only hear about the responsibilities of the park and rescue personnel.


Must agree with Jim, after spending many years in the business, I do agree that many first time users have sometimes little or moderate experience in wilderness travel, particularly off season hikes, backpacks. If I remember my Yosemite Park wilderness stats, this includes about 80% of the hiking visitors. That said, I feel support for these men in that they at least made the effort, ill advised as it was, and they probably did nothing worse than all of us on our first wilderness experience, they just got caught. Having been involved in numerous of these incidents (I do not claim to be the foremost expert on the issue however), I also compliment all involved in this arduous rescue. It was always one of the great parts of the job, helping those that needed help.

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