It all happened last week at Black Mountain, near Asheville, North Carolina.

Kristy Thornbrew had an idea, she wanted to see the sunrise from atop the nearby mountain. Who hasn’t had that desire at least a few times in their lives. Kristy had talked with friends who told her it was a quick easy hike on a simple trail.  It was apparently nice weather that Monday morning, since she headed off in the early morning hours, in a short skirt, tank top, tennis shoes and hoodie. The hike went along fine to the top, once there she looked around to find a place to sit, have a snack and enjoy the view, it was about 7am. Kristy saw a nice rock to sit on and started working her way over to it. She found the area steep and tried to crawl over to the rock. Then something happened and she found herself tumbling down the rocky slope. Rescuers said she fell several hundred feet.

Kristy lay unconscious for about 12 hours. Upon awaking she was disoriented, totally lost, not knowing where she was or how she got there. During the next few days she chewed on twigs, ate leaves, and some roots, she drank water from a small creek. She sheltered the best she could at night, but Tuesday night and into Wednesday it snowed. On Wednesday night she found an area that had some loose dirt and debris, so she burrowed in the best she could, it was a good thing, cold and fatigue were starting to get to her, she needed good rest. She was beginning to hallucinate, at times she imagined she was seeing friends off in the distance, but upon arrival there she found no one. Kristy finally realized she had to get somewhere out of the trees where she could be seen, so on Thursday she saw a place she felt she could get to, a rock out cropping. It was a little dangerous to get to, but she figured it was do or die time and she managed to get there, telling herself, it had to be done.

Apparently the skirt she had on was shiny or sparkled, she put her hoodie around her waist and took off the skirt and fastened it to the end of a pole. She waved it around when helicopters flew by, they soon found her. By late in the afternoon she was rescued and on her way to the hospital in Asheville. She suffered scrapes, bruises, a couple fractures, and a little frostbite, but other than that she was OK, she survived, she made it.

So let’s look at this and see what we can learn. Before we do however, I do salute Kristy as a survivor, she did a number of critical things right that saved her life. Unfortunately there were a couple errors that cost her dearly. First lets look at what she started out with.

  • A shiny mini skirt
  • A bright red tank top
  • A hoodie
  • A pair of tennis shoes
  • A diet Coke
  • A pack of raspberries

After the fall she only had her clothing, which was not much to get through the nights on. Now lets look at what she did to get through and to get rescued.

  • As she hiked around trying to figure her way out, searchers say she left items behind to hopefully alert them to her presence
  • She stayed hydrated, drinking from a creek here and there
  • She ate roots, leaves, and chewed on twigs. We are not sure she knew what they were
  • At night she tried to shelter, not doing so good until Wednesday night when she burrowed into some dirt and debris
  • She told others where she was going and when she would be back, that was a critical thing she did, that saved her life
  • For signaling she used her shiny skirt and red tank top, very resourceful

It’s easy for us to look back now and see what Kristy should have done or not done, what she should have taken. I think what is important is that we look at ourselves and check out how many times we do things in the same way as she did, a nice day, a casual hike or walk, very carefree. We should use this story of her survival experience to improve our own safety and preparedness. How many times do we leave behind things we really ought to take, thinking we just don’t foresee needing them?

Think what a difference a Fire Starter Kit could have made, how about a survival kit, perhaps she could have been rescued after the first day.

Here’s a link to her story, I”m sure more details will come out soon, but for now here’s what we know about Kristy Thornbrew, and her life threatening experience.

Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, “Simplifying Survival”

Note: Story and photo credits WSPA News 7 Asheville, NC

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