New York Forest Rangers Make Two Incredible Rescues in One Day

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by leezsnow via Getty Images)

Weekends are particularly busy times for forest rangers and other wilderness rescue crews, as one could imagine. For many of us, the weekends are the only times we can venture into the great outdoors, which often means a spike in hiking trail incidents and climbing accidents. But a pair of New York State Forest Rangers were even busier than usual last weekend, completing two daring rescues in a single afternoon.

It was a slow morning for New York State Rangers Lewis and Praczkajlo, lulling the duo into a false sense of calm. Maybe this Sunday would be smooth sailing, after all. Then the afternoon rolled around, however, and they received their first call.

The rescue request came from Mount Marcy, an Adirondack High Peak and the tallest mountain in New York. The hiker, a 40-year-old woman from Newark, had successfully trekked up the strenuous 16-mile trail and reached the 5,344-foot summit. But the treacherous trail was slick with ice, and shortly after beginning the journey back to the base, she lost her footing.

According to rescue crews, the New York hiker slid about 30 feet down the mountain before crashing into a rock at high speed, severely injuring her leg. This recovery mission was going to be tough; assisting the woman down 16 miles of rocky trail was unrealistic, at best. So they called in the help of the New York State Police, who brought their helicopter to assist in the rescue.

With the New York Forest Rangers on board, the helicopter flew to a location near the summit where they could more easily transport the hiker to safety. After locating the injured hiker, they secured her leg in a splint and flew her to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for surgery and treatment.

New York Rescue Crew Makes Second Recovery Flight

Just before 4:00 p.m., Rangers Lewis and Praczkajlo, having successfully transported the injured hiker to safety, were thanking the police officers and celebrating another job well done. The day, however, was far from over. While still in the helicopter, they received a second call.

This one came from a 69-year-old hiker who had spent the day exploring the Saddleback Cliffs when he, too, fell on the ice. The fall was brutal, leaving the hiker with extensive injuries, including a broken leg.

So, rather than heading back to the ranger station, the group set off for Saddleback Mountain, home to the demanding Saddleback Cliffs. Reaching the hiker, they found him to be in even worse condition than the last. After slipping on an icy patch, the hiker gashed his calf on a spruce root in addition to breaking his leg.

The New York rescue crew did what they could for the hiker at the scene, placing his leg in a splint and bandaging his wounds before making their second trip to Adirondack Medical Center.

With the help of New York Police and their helicopter, the Forest Rangers were able to complete two demanding rescue missions in a single afternoon. Rangers say both hikers were reasonably well-equipped for cold weather adventures, as both had microspikes attached to their boots.

Due to the elevation of the Adirondacks, however, it wasn’t quite enough. Experts recommend crampons and ice axes for winter hiking in the area, as the ice is more than six inches thick.