Archived Outdoors

Smokies rangers rescue fallen hiker in storm conditions

out alumcaveA 64-year-old Michigan man is recovering after a fall while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last Sunday afternoon (July 27), an accident that kept him and his rescuers holed up in the backcountry for 24 hours while waiting out a tremendous thunderstorm.

Bill Runyon was hiking the Alum Cave Trail with family members when he fell more than 15 feet below the trail, sustaining back and neck injuries, rendering him unable to hike the 4 miles back to the trailhead. 

A team of 11 rangers arrived on-scene by 4 p.m., but storms forced them to set up a temporary shelter around 8 p.m. about one mile from Alum Cave. They used  tarps to keep Runyon, who was in stable condition, dry and warm. Two medics and two rangers spent the night on the mountain with Runyon while the rest of the team departed until the rescue resumed in the morning, pulling in 18 members. 

Mount Leconte reported 3.61 inches of rain that night, and rangers also contended with wind and lightning. With several river crossings and a staircase through Arch Rock, the rescue would have been challenging even in fair weather. 

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