Extreme Skier Tells Story of How He Crawled Hours to Safety After Downhill Fall
After a grueling ordeal in the rugged back woods of New Hampshire, Patrick Luk made it back to his car in the parking lot at the bottom of King Ravine trail dehydrated, injured and delusional.
The last thing that Luk, 22, remembers seeing before he lost consciousness are officers with the New Hampshire Fish and Game arriving to his aid.
Luk, a seasoned competitive skier, embarked on his adventure on Monday at 11 a.m. for a hike and ski along the King Ravine trail. But the situation quickly turned so dire.
"Luk's odds of being found were few to none," New Hampshire Fish and Game Lt. Wayne Saunders told ABC News.
Luk told ABC News about his story of survival in an email today.
Luk, who has been skiing since age 5, planned to go with a friend. But when his friend backed out at the last minute, Luk said he decided to go alone anyway because the weather forecast was good, he knew the area and the avalanche risk report was low. He also told his mother of his plans and when he expected to return to his car.
Luk said he had been enjoying his day off, taking moments to take in the scenery, take photos and rest before strapping on his ski boots for his descent.
"When I got to the top of the gully, I spent a minute standing looking down the hill to finalize my route in my head," Luk said. "As I was doing so the ice that I was standing on gave away."
"I went to put pressure on my uphill ski to prevent myself from sliding further down the hill, and while doing so the binding on my ski prematurely released and the ski came off of my foot," Luke said. "At that point I knew I was in trouble."
The terrain's steepness ranges from 45 to 65 degrees, Luk said, and he immediately began sliding down the gully.
"I got thrown around even more, and at one point I was thrown on my back going head-first down the gully. I then felt a sense of weightlessness and knew that I was airborne," he said.
After going airborne for a second time, Luk said a large body of soft snow stopped his slide as he landed on his back.
Luk spent a few seconds regaining his bearings. His skis, poles and ice ax were nowhere to be found and only his goggles were close by, he said. More devastating, Luk realized his right leg was severely hurting when he tried to stand and put pressure on it.
Using his survival skills, Luk put his phone on auto dial for 911 as he began to slide on his back down the hill. It seemed to be the worst-case scenario when his phone died and the sun starting setting. Luk didn't even have his lamp on him.
In an act of sheer will and determination, Luk began to crawl his way down the hill, feeling the tracks left behind by others and using the moon as his only guide.
In the meantime, Luk's mother made an overdue hiker call when her son didn't check in with her that afternoon, Saunders said.
Using that earlier 911 hang-up call (since the call never went through), New Hampshire Fish and Game was able to launch a rescue team into the approximate area, Saunders said. Fish and Game was also able to locate Luk's car and left him a note, he said.
"The area he was in has no trail," Saunders said of just how remote and dangerous the gully is. Bad weather was expected to sweep in that night, Saunders said, adding to the urgency of the situation.
Luk remained persistent and determined as he crawled downhill.
"During my struggle down the hill I saw several lights further downhill toward the road," he said. "I kept thinking 'Oh, they are finally here to come look for me. I can take a break now,' but thankfully the smarter half of my consciousness kicked in and told me to keep moving my ass downhill."
Once Luk was back at his car, over seven hours after he first fell downhill, he plugged in his phone and called the number left on the note on his car, he said.
"You could see by his face he had taken quite a fall and his helmet was damaged from the top," Saunders said. "He was shaking quite a bit from exposure to the elements and probably wouldn't have been able to go on for much longer."
Luk became unresponsive as he was being questioned and the best he could do was nod his head, Saunders said.
Luk was released from the hospital Tuesday morning and has been recovering at home.
When asked what he was most thankful for, Luk said his helmet for saving his life, his mother for making the 911 call and his equipment and clothes that kept him warm and relatively dry throughout the experience.
"Aside from that, I am happy that my body was prepared for the conditions that I faced," Luk simply concluded.