A hiker messaged her family that she was dying; a stranger’s 911 call saved her

Posted at 12:38 PM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 01:42:12-04

A two-hour hike on the Pacific Crest Trail between two strangers led to the rescue of one of them just days after.

Katharina Gröne on Wednesday described how she was alone, surrounded by snow and sleet, and trapped 5,000 feet up on a mountain when a helicopter swooped down to rescue her.

“I was not sure I would make it out at all,” Gröne said in a press conference. “I already, via WhatsApp, informed my parents. I apologized for dying on the PCT, for risking too much, for being too stupid.”

Gröne, of Germany, started her journey on the PCT at the Mexican Border in May, and she was committed to make it to Canada.

She met Nancy Abell at Lake Susan Jane in Washington on October 22, and Abell offered her a ride to Stevens Pass, a popular mountain resort. The two hiked around the area for about two hours, before Gröne decided to head north.

“I felt like, being from Germany, she wasn’t familiar with the Glacier Peak wilderness area, and Glacier Peak creates its own weather, and it can be really bad this time of year,” Abell said. “The whole two hours we were hiking together, I was trying to talk her out of it.”

Up to 3 feet of snow was expected where Gröne was headed.

‘It’s terrifying’

After the weather started getting worse, Abell checked the weather and her maps, and pinpointed where Gröne might be before calling 911.

“I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so worried about her,” Abell said. “Anybody, really I would have done the same thing for if I thought they were in peril up there, because I’ve been through it and it’s terrifying.”

While on Glacier Peak, Gröne lost shelter equipment and two sets of gloves as the snow and sleet closed in.

“I was screaming for help in the morning because I just had to get the fear out of me. I was screaming all the names I knew and I was just hoping that someone would react.” Gröne said.

After being in contact with Abell, the Snohomish County Helicopter Rescue Team spotted footprints and Gröne’s red jacket and eventually got their SnowHawk 1 chopper close enough so she could climb in.

The rescue team was on its last scan before running out of fuel, according to Bill Quistorf, the chief pilot for the sheriff’s office.

“Katharina did not need any encouragement to climb aboard SnoHawk 1 and fly off the mountain,” the team wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

Faith in humanity is back

“The biggest thing, which I have struggled with before I started the PCT, was faith in humanity,” Gröne said.

While Gröne was stuck in the mountains she was asking why no one cares about anyone else.

“My faith in humanity? Definitely restored, so box checked,” Gröne said in the press conference, sitting next to the former strangers who saved her life.