Stranded hiker rescued from national park backcountry

A hiker stranded on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was successfully evacuated by rescuers last Friday after spending one night in the cold.


An air rescue operation was launched at 2 p.m. Nov. 2 in an attempt to locate and extract Steven Ainsworth, 56, who is from Washington, N.C. Ainsworth had become stranded the day before on a remote section of the trail as a result of the snowstorm that blanketed higher elevations of the park earlier in the week. Ainsworth had placed a 911 distress call from his cell phone to the Cherokee Police Department.

The agency then notified park and late Thursday two rangers were dispatched by foot. After a nine-hour hike through steep terrain, high winds, and four- to five-foot snowdrifts did not end with the rangers finding the lost hiker, the rescuers took shelter in one of the Appalachian Trail shelters. They later found out they were an estimated four miles from Ainsworth.

Luckily, air operations out of the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport were successful in locating the lost hiker and the Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter took Ainsworth back to the airport. He was then taken by ambulance to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville for medical evaluation. He was released from the hospital that same day.

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