The first task of the Paragliding World Cup in July 2012 went extremely well for Guy Anderson. Flying over a hundred miles and covering five mountain ranges, Guy was thrilled with the spectacular views of Sun Valley, Idaho. But the second task, which took Guy soaring over an area called Fish Creek Canyon, went incredibly wrong as he encountered unmanageable turbulence. Trying to descend low in a windy valley, he collapsed quickly and was unable to pull his reserve. The canopy was unrecoverable and Guy crashed violently on his side into the rugged terrain 600 feet above the valley bed. Guy sustained seven fractured ribs, a punctured lung, a broken upper arm, a shattered shoulder and a fractured pelvis. He also had to initially battle going into shock.
Equipped with one gallon of water, very little food, a dead radio, a cell phone without a signal, and no map, Guy was unable to see any signs of inhabitance and knew he’d have to hike out. After spending a frightening night at the crash scene with sounds of animals growling nearby, Guy started his grueling journey. Sliding on his rear, despite the mind-numbing pain, he gradually made his way down to the bottom of the valley. There, he found a sturdy stick and enlisted it as a crutch. Moving at a snail’s pace, he shuffled in threes—left foot, right foot, left foot—thinking about his wife and daughters back home in the UK.
“It was several days before I was rescued. I managed about a mile a day, walking with tiny steps and making such slow progress that three huge rattlesnakes I disturbed had plenty of time to slither away totally unbothered. Each step needed immense concentration. Perfect placement was everything to minimize pain and I became absorbed by getting the pattern right,” he said.
To make matters worse, he also endured a thunderstorm, utterly soaking him and leaving him without any hope of becoming warm and dry. Once the rain subsided, Guy emerged from beneath the bush he had used as meek shelter. Getting back up onto his feet took over an hour each time. Then, the hallucinations began.
A mirage of a cabin appeared. He knew he was starting to slip mentally, perhaps from the cold, wet night, or from low blood sugar. Either way, the exposure and injuries were taking a toll on him.
After 48 long, painstaking hours, search and rescue discovered the crash site merely by chance. With no sign of Guy near the glider wreckage, they suspected he’d been eaten by wildlife, but a member of search and rescue jumped out of the chopper to investigate the scene. Hearing the chopper in the distance, Guy knew search and rescue were close.
Upon investigation, search and rescue discovered Guy was trying to hike out. One rescuer stayed on the ground, while the rest of the team went up in the chopper to locate him. The team in the chopper spotted him quickly and landed within 150 feet of his location. He was rescued and treated at a nearby hospital within 15 minutes.
“I am certainly no survival expert, just very, very lucky,” said Guy, who plans to compete this year in the 2014 Paragliding World Cup in August in Portugal. “Because of what happened to me, I tell every pilot I meet to carry an inReach satellite communicator. I know I’ll have mine by my side every time I’m flying or traveling in any remote areas. If I had an inReach with me in 2012, not only would I have been able to let someone know where I was and trigger an SOS, but even if I’d been out all night, I could’ve sent an ‘Injured but OK’ message, which would have spared all the anguish at home for my wife and family.”