(SEATTLE) — A trail runner who broke his leg on a frigid Washington mountain facilitated his own rescue by crawling for more than 10 hours to reach help.
Joe Oldendorf, 26, was running on the Duckabush Trail at Olympic National Park Saturday morning when he slipped on an icy patch, he told ABC Seattle affiliate KOMO.
Olendorf knew right away something was wrong when he saw his foot flop to the side “like it was untethered,” he said. He then decided to crawl toward where he’d seen several people camping about three miles into the trail.
“I was just trying to keep my mind on moving,” he said. “I knew deep down that that was my only option, so I didn’t really stop to entertain anything else. I just tried to stay warm, keep going.”
He then crawled for nearly seven hours when his phone received a text, signaling he’d reached a spot where he had cellphone service.
Olendorf tried dialing 911 three times before the call went through and then continued to crawl for another four hours before he saw the flashing lights from a rescue crew, he said, describing the sight as the “biggest relief” he’s ever felt.
He was located around 4 a.m. Sunday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The search and rescue crew covered Olendorf with blankets and hot packs to prevent hypothermia and got him to a spot where a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter could land so he could be airlifted to the hospital, according to KOMO.
“We like to train for high-altitude rescues because of the mountainous region we operate in,” Lt. Cmdr. Sam Hill, MH-65 pilot, said in a statement. “Because of that training, we were able to overcome numerous environmental challenges to rescue the hiker from a dangerous situation. We thank Jefferson County Search and Rescue for their help locating the hiker and assisting with the hoist.”
Once he arrived at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, surgeons placed a rod into his tibia and a plate and screws into his fibula. The skin on his knees were also raw from the hours of crawling.
Olendorf’s rescuers told KOMO his grit and determination likely prevented him from sustaining more serious injuries. He is thankful to be alive, he said.
He was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon in a splint, and it will take about 12 weeks for his leg to fully recover.
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