Washington Hiker Breaks Leg, Crawls For Eight Hours To Find Cell Service

A trail runner in Washington State is lucky to be alive after breaking his ankle while hiking in a remote area in Olympic National Park. 26-year-old Joseph Oldendorf was about ten miles from the trailhead when he slipped and fell on a patch of ice. He snapped his tibia about three inches above his ankle. Unable to walk or call for help, Oldendorf was forced to crawl on his hands and knees through the rocky terrain.

"I had to crawl on all fours and my knees – it's a rocky, snowy, dirty, wet trail – and after a while, my knees were just raw," he told KIRO-TV. "So I had the idea put my shoes over them so I would at least have some traction and a little bit of protection, but they're still really messed up."

After nearly eight hours, Oldendorf was relieved when he finally heard a beep on his cell phone and realized he had reception. He immediately called 911, and rescuers began searching for him. He didn't stay put and continued to traverse the dangerous trail for another four hours until the Brinnon Fire Department managed to locate him around 4 a.m. 

"I had no idea how long it was going to be, and I knew that I was still probably six miles down trail," said Oldendorf. "I stopped to lay down and stay warm, thinking they might be there relatively soon, but I was way too cold, and there was no way I could do it without moving, so I just decided to keep moving towards them."

Firefighters treated him for exposure and his broken ankle while waiting for a Coast Guard helicopter to airlift him from the trail. 

He told the news station that he thought about his family as he struggled to push forward.

"I don't want my family to hear I died in the wilderness," said Oldendorf. "I think it'd be unbearable."

Firefighter Jerry Rule with the Brinnon Fire Department said that Oldendorf is lucky to have survived after falling on the remote trail. 

"Doesn't take much to take you out of the game up on those trails and by yourself," said Rule. "He's a lucky guy. We were on our way out, after evacuating him by helicopter; we only ran into two other individuals, and they were not going as far as we were."

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