Sometimes, people come into your life for a very specific reason. And for a hiker in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, a stranger she had just met would end up saving her life from freezing, life-threatening temperatures.
Katharina Groene, 34, was visiting the States from Germany and met Nancy Abell on October 24, 2018. Abell offered to drive Groene to Stevens Pass.
Abell was no stranger to hiking and tried to convince Groene that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that time of year was dangerous. Groene, however, persisted that she was going to continue, even though she didn’t have the proper gear for snowy weather.
Abell decided to hike a few miles with Groene, pleading with her the entire way not to continue, but Groene had a goal of reaching the Canadian border. She had been hiking the trail since May and was determined to finish her border-to-border trek.
The entire 2,650-mile trail spans from Mexico to Canada, crossing through California, Oregon, and Washington.
Abell realized there wasn’t going to be any way she could convince Groene to stop her journey, so, she turned around and went home. Of course, she kept Groene in her mind and kept an eye on the weather reports.
On October 29th, Abell noticed a dip in temperatures and alerted the Snohomish County search and rescue team. That’s when the sheriff’s office sent out their helicopter to search for Groene and check on her well-being.
“Nancy was very worried and she provided a whole lot of information,” Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Adams said in a press release.
Given Abell’s knowledge about Groene’s gear, she was able to estimate where the hiker might be and helped the sheriff’s office pinpoint a generalized search area.
“I just kept thinking about her being up there by herself,” Abell said at the press conference. “And I knew what it was going to be like.”
An hour and a half after searching, the pilot and team were able to spot Groene’s tracks in the snow and found her in a small clearing. It took over 10 attempts for the helicopter to land, but the rough terrain and unpredictable weather were making it extremely difficult. Finally, after building a makeshift platform out of logs, the helicopter made it to the hiker.
Groene’s shelter had blown away and she was low on supplies and food. Without a locator beacon and no cell phone service, the 34-year-old began recording ‘goodbye’ messages on her phone.
“I informed my parents, I apologized for dying on the PCT, for risking too much,” Groene said.
The hiker was taken to the nearby hospital in Duvall, Washington where Abell was there to greet her, relieved that she was still alive. Blown away by Abell’s concern for someone she didn’t know, Groene asked how she could care so much. But for Abell, it came naturally due to the fact that she has a daughter around Groene’s same age.
After being treated at the hospital, Groene stayed with Abell until she was able to return to Germany.
“If Nancy had not taken action Katharina would have most likely died in the mountains,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Watch more about this incredible story in the video below. There is so much good in the world!
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