Hiker Survives on Bugs After Harrowing Leg Break

Gregg Hein: Break was so bad bone protruded more than an inch out of leg

By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 17, 2014 6:45 AM CDT | Updated Jul 17, 2014 7:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Hiking alone has its disadvantages, and experienced climber, rafter, and trail runner Gregg Hein got up close and personal with most of them earlier this month. Two days into a solo hike in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks near Fresno, Calif., his footing set loose a boulder that caused the 33-year-old to fall 150 feet and broke his right leg in three places, leaving his foot "dangling" and his bone protruding out of his skin more than an inch. Knowing that a tourniquet would later lead to amputation, he took his chances and went without it; the bleeding eventually slowed. "I have to get these next moments right," Hein tells the AP. "What do I do to make sure I have the best chance for a positive outcome?" Part of that meant surviving for at least three days; he wasn't expected home for another two, so that's how long it would take for a search party to be dispatched.

Hein abandoned his heavy pack on Mount Goddard, taking a poncho, pocket knife, whistle, and bivvy sack with him as he scooted to a glacier; there, he nursed his injury with ice for four days, surviving on melted ice, moths, and crickets. He then decided he'd have a better chance of being spotted elsewhere; held his leg together using hiking poles, a belt, and a cord; and crawled for about a mile. On day six—July 10—two helicopters flew above him several times. "It was kind of wrenching," he tells the Fresno Bee. Around 7:30pm, a "fortuitous" moment arrived: A crew was dropped off just 50 feet from him, and when he saw the searchers spot him, he rolled onto his back and "breathed a deep sigh of relief." Full recovery is expected to take months. Hein plans to get back in the wilderness—though next time not alone, he says. (Check out which insect this man survived on for months in the wild.)

Gregg Hein, who broke his leg on a solo hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains, recovers at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif. on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.
Gregg Hein, who broke his leg on a solo hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains, recovers at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif. on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.   (AP Photo/Scott Smith)
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