Ian Sarmento, a 21-year-old Chester County, PA native, spent 10 days caught in a blizzard during his 2,650-mile trek up the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border. As a teenager, Sarmento had hiked the Appalachian Trail, which is over 2,000 miles, and by May 2012, he was ready to try out a new trail.
Sarmento began his hike without a compass, GPS, or even a cell phone. He had no idea that he soon would be facing the most difficult challenge of his life.
By mid-October, Sarmento arrived at Hikers Haven in Baring, Washington, a place for hikers to take shelter and wait out bad weather. Most hikers plan to arrive at this spot before October to avoid poor weather conditions, but when Sarmento arrived, he decided to continue his trek even after locals suggested he stay.
Though he had plenty of food, Sarmento soon was in the middle of a blizzard. In hopes that the snow would turn to rain, he set up his tent overnight but awoke to rising levels of snow and realized that previously visible trails could no longer be distinguished. He decided to wait out the storm in a nearby canyon.
Soon Sarmento began rationing his food, eating between 300 and 500 calories per day. By day 6, he imagined helicopter and airplane rescues sounds, and by days 9 and 10 these sounds were constantly in his head.
By day 10, Sarmento made a last desperate effort to search for a trail. The trail miraculously led him to Stehekin, the closest town to Hikers Haven. From there, Sarmento rested and decided to complete the trail into Canada.
Sarmento arrived home on November 14, close to 6 months and 1 near-death situation after he began his journey. While he might choose to carry a survival kit and GPS on him now, Sarmento still hopes to hike the 3,100-mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in the future.
The moral of the story–hikers should always have an emergency survival kit prepared and stay up-to-date on the latest weather conditions.