Hiker rescued from Mount Hood: 'I was so blessed' - KPTV - FOX 12

Mt. Hood hiker burned Nutri-Grain wrappers to stay warm

Posted: Updated: April 1, 2013 07:48 AM

The college student who spent six nights alone on Mount Hood said the experience has made her appreciate her family and her relationship with God.

Mary Owen was upbeat as she recounted her story from her bed at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. She has a nasty gash on her leg that will require stitches. Both her feet are frostbitten and she hopes doctors will not have to amputate her toes.

"I was so blessed," she said. "My parents have been wonderful and forgive me for being stupid."

Owen, a student at George Fox University, said she originally planned to hike the mountain with a group of friends. She decided to go alone when they backed out because of "iffy" weather, a decision she now regrets.

She set out at 11 a.m. Sunday and planned to return by midnight.

Instead, Owen ran into whiteout conditions less than 1,000 feet from the summit. The weather forced her down the wrong side of the mountain and into a canyon.

The experienced hiker, who once hiked the Pacific Coast Trail, ran into more trouble when she tried to climb out early Monday morning.

"My ice ax slipped and I ended up falling through trees and rocks and stuff back down onto the snow," Owen said.

Owen dug a hollow in the snow and slept. When she woke up, she realized her leg was injured in the fall and decided to stay put.

"I was kind of counting on the fact that people would be looking for me," she said. "I figured it wouldn't be that long. I figured it would be better to hunker down in a place that was visible."

Owen said she filled out registration at Timberline, noting the time she expected to return. Officials say the registration was never found. She had also emailed a friend, saying she planned to be back from Mount Hood Sunday evening or Monday morning.

But the search for Owen did not begin until Thursday, when family and friends notified authorities she was missing.

"Part of it was so discouraging. I was just like, 'Where is everybody?'" said Owen. "Usually when you know people are thinking about you, praying for you, you can kind of feel it. There was nothing. Nobody looking for me, nobody praying for me, nothing. That was really hard."

She spent a few days in the hollow in the snow before moving to the shelter of nearby trees.

Owen lit a small fire using a Nutri-Grain bar wrapper as kindling. But she couldn't move around to collect more kindling to keep the fire going.

She ate ramen noodles, Nutri-Grain bars and chia seeds and melted snow for drinking water.

She started dreaming about people who told her ways to get off the mountain.

Owen, who plans to go into the missionary field as a Bible translator, said the most difficult part was not hearing from God during her time on the mountain.

On Friday morning, as a full search effort was launched, Owen "woke up with really a lot of peace and the sense of thousands and thousands of people praying for me."

She continued, "That was really powerful. So Friday I was just like, ‘This is the day they're going to find me.'"

Owen spotted a search plane that afternoon, but the crews didn't see her.

Still, she went to bed dreaming she would be rescued.

When a National Guard helicopter flew overhead and sent someone down to rescue her, "I was just thanking God and thanking them and so happy," she said.

The experience has not soured her on hiking or on Mount Hood, although she won't plan to hike there alone next time.

It has made her realize she needs to stay in better contact with her loved ones.

"I guess this time it was really kind of humbling me to make me realize it's not just me," she said. "And I need to not take my friends and family for granted."

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