FRESNO, California — A hiker who was stranded for six days in California’s Sierra Nevada with a badly broken leg says survival mode kicked in when he treated his own injury and sought sustenance by eating crickets and moths, and drinking melting ice.
Recovering at a Fresno hospital, Gregg Hein, 33, said Wednesday that he was a couple days into a solo hike high in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks northeast of Fresno when a large rock crushed his right leg above the ankle.
After letting out a yelp, the Clovis man said his first thought was treating his dangling leg and protruding bone to boost his chances of making it out alive.
“I have to get these next moments right,” said Hein, an avid outdoorsman. “What do I do to make sure I have the best chance for a positive outcome?”
He briefly considered applying a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, a move that he knew would end with an amputation.
Rather, Hein said he used hiking gear to wrap and secure his leg, and then he scooted to a flat clearing with a good vantage point to wait for rescuers. He had left his heavy pack behind, and the few insects he could scour at arm’s reach hardly filled him up. He blew a whistle, hoping its echoes would catch somebody’s attention.
Back home, Doug Hein reported his son missing two days after he didn’t return home as planned. Rescuers searched on foot and from the air. A helicopter crew eventually spotted the hiker July 10 and lifted him to safety.
Hein underwent two surgeries and expects two more in a healing process likely to take months. Five pins hold his bones in place, and his legs are covered with scrapes from the 150-foot fall he took in the accident.
Hein’s father said he has warned his son against hiking alone, but that didn’t keep him from two major expeditions, one covering 165 miles of wilderness. He’s waiting for his son to recover to have another heart-to-heart conversation.
“I’ve got a long time to get him back home and get him cornered and say, ‘Hopefully you’ve learned from this,'” Doug Hein said.
Gregg Hein said his risky days of hiking alone are behind him, but not his love of the outdoors.
“As soon as I can get back to trail running and hiking, I’ll be out there,” he said. “It’s my community.”