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Rescued hiker was ‘never cold’ on Mount Charleston

Well, it wasn’t exactly "Into the Wild."

Greg Rudowsky’s experience as a stranded hiker on Mount Charleston on Thursday can best be described as an extra night of camping.

Rudowsky, 60, and Tiki, his 9-year-old golden retriever, had a tent, warm clothing, two sleeping bags, sleeping mats, food, water and a personal locator that had accurately broadcast their GPS coordinates.

Essentially, they were in no real danger before being rescued by helicopter Friday morning.

"We were never cold," said Rudowsky at a news conference at the North Las Vegas Airport on Friday.

Rudowsky, an experienced hiker, seemed slightly apologetic and embarrassed when asked about being rescued.

"I just didn’t want to put these guys out," he said, referring to the search-and-rescue team that found him.

Rudowsky said the initial plan was to hike Lee Canyon’s Bonanza Trail on Wednesday, camp overnight and leave Thursday morning.

But he never checked the weather forecast.

When he woke up on Thursday, Rudowsky said there were several feet of snow on the ground and more falling each minute. He had camped slightly off the trail, and his GPS wasn’t matching his location, he said.

As a precaution, Rudowsky activated the "SOS" function on his personal locator. That device also notified his wife, Robin, that he was lost but OK.

Police were notified Thursday morning but were unable to hike the trail because of the bad weather.

The rescue was suspended until Friday after Rudowsky told police he could safely spend another night. When the clouds broke the next morning, the helicopter arrived, and an officer hoisted him and Tiki to safety.

"Ten minutes after I saw sun, they were there," he said of the helicopter.

Sgt. Gavin Vesp said Rudowsky was camped at 9,600 feet, which meant lots of snow and tough hiking for officers.

His team wanted to pull Rudowsky out on Thursday but retreated after dark.

Because Rudowksy was so prepared, they never felt lives were at risk, he said.

"We felt good, that we knew where he was," Vesp said. "We didn’t believe he was out in the elements, exposed."

He said the actual helicopter rescue was "routine."

Officer Jim Rogan said Rudowsky had the proper equipment and the proper mindset, which made their job easier.

Though it was 18 degrees outside, neither Rudowsky nor Tiki was affected.

"They were in the best possible shape they could have been," Rogan said.

"He could have lasted a week out there," he added.

Rudowsky said he had never hiked Bonanza Trail before but had experience on Mount Charleston — and in cold weather.

Originally from New York, Rudowsky said he owns a home in Canmore, in Alberta, Canada, where he lives six months a year.

He also spends time in South Dakota and Las Vegas, he said.

Southern Nevada’s scenic lands attract out-of-state adventure seekers who sometimes underestimate the vastness and remoteness of destinations in the Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon, regardless if they set out in the cold of winter or heat of summer.

About an hour before the cloud layer lifted Friday over Lee Canyon so the rescue helicopter could fly to Rudowsky’s location, a Las Vegas couple strapped on snowshoes at the Upper Bristlecone trail head and set out for a recreational trek through the thigh-deep snow. They said they would keep an eye out for the stranded man and his dog.

"It won’t be the first hiker we helped out of the woods," Andrew Vaughan said.

Vaughan and his wife, Leann, had stumbled across a lost hiker from New England this summer in Red Rock Canyon. They reached him before rescue helicopters arrived and guided him out of the Calico Tanks area.

Vesp said he thinks Rudowsky’s personal locator was a vital tool to making a relatively quick rescue.

When bad weather happens, police need as much as help as possible, he said.

Otherwise, "it would have been extremely difficult to nearly impossible," he said.

Review-Journal writer Keith Rogers contributed to this report. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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