Hiker found after 4 days
Updated On: Oct 28 2013 06:09:59 AM HST
Missing for four days on an Oahu mountainside, an experienced hiker gets some life-saving help from his friends.
Jutting up from above the Pali Lookout are the Pali Notches, a popular but potentially-dangerous destination for hikers.
"The trail is very slippery, mostly mud. When the water comes down it is very slippery, you have to grab trees to get up," said Scott Casey, a hiker from Honolulu.
Experienced hikers said the trail gets more difficult the higher you go, but hikers make the trek because the Pali Notches offer breathtaking views from atop the spine of the Koolau Mountains.
That is where Jan Vankat, a hiker visiting from Europe, told his family he was headed on Wednesday.
He never returned.
After hearing their friend Jan was missing, a group of hikers hit the trail early Sunday morning.
"We knew that there are logs on different trails. So we came up here to see if Jan had signed in, and he had," said Bill Keegan, a friend of Vankat.
Vankat's friends knew he had made it to the Pali Notches because the hiker had signed his name and wrote "Greetings from the Czech Republic."
After Vankat's friends alerted rescuers to this important information, fire personnel took off in a helicopter to search for the man, who had now been missing for four days.
Beyond the Pali Notches is the most dangerous part of the climb to the highest summit of the Koolau Mountains, according to hikers. Standing in the way is a vertical rock formation known as the chimney.
That was where rescuers zeroed in by using Vankat's cellphone data, but the hiker was not with his backpack.
"Jan and his backpack were separated. The backpack was below the cliff called the chimney, he was even further below that by around a 100 yards," said Capt. Terry Seelig with the Honolulu Fire Department.
As a helicopter circled overhead, another group of hikers on a nearby trail heard someone in trouble on the mountainside above them.
"He was pretty incoherent. We'd say, 'Are you OK?' and we wouldn't be able to understand exactly what he was saying, but he was responsive enough," said Honolulu hiker Kevin Landers.
Rescuers found Vankat before noon Sunday, then airlifted him out. At this point, emergency personnel said the 26-year-old hiker was in pretty bad shape.
"He was in serious condition in that he wasn't very responsive," said Seelig.
As the ambulance took Vankat away, his hiking friends were relieved his solo trek didn't turn out differently, but they will still remind him of the important rule to never go on dangerous hikes alone.
"We're going to talk to him. He's part of our adopted family here in Hawaii. I'm sure back home they'll be glad to hear he's doing OK and that the people here cared for him enough to make sure he's OK," said Casey.
Rescuers said Vankat did not appear to have any major broken bones, but he got a thorough examination at the hospital where he is now recovering from his four-day ordeal in the mountains.
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