Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
For those of you who haven't already heard, I was deep in the wilderness of western Wyoming for the last week and had to trigger my emergency beacon to initiate a rescue. For awhile on Sunday all of my family, my wife's family, and a host of other people were justifiably freaking out. There has been a reasonable amount of misinformation going around, so here's what actually happened:
Bob, Tom, and I were setting up our campsite for our fourth night in the Bridger Wilderness when a man with lots of blood all over his shirt ran out of the woods asking if any of us had an emergency beacon. I said that I did and asked him what had happened, and he said that his 10-year-old son had fallen and cut his leg so badly that blood was "spurting" out of it and that he had to put a tourniquet on the leg to stop the bleeding. From his description, I judged that this qualified as "grave and imminent danger" to the child, so I immediately triggered my beacon.
The father and I ran the mile or so to the site of the accident where the kid was being tended to by his mother and sister. I removed the ace bandage and duct tape that they had applied to his leg and saw a massive laceration below his knee. I cleaned the would as best I could, applied a QuickClot patch to prevent any further bleeding, then re-dressed the wound back up. With the clotting patch in place, I was able to remove the tourniquet without any additional bleeding and eventually we got the kid vertical again and there was still no sign of bleeding. At that point, I declared him stable enough that moving him was an option (though I still didn't want him to be putting weight on that leg).
There was discussion of waiting for the SAR helicopter to arrive, which would happen some time in the next 24 hours, or to carry the kid out to the family's campsite, where they had a boat and could take him directly across the lake to their car and then to the hospital. Since the kid wasn't bleeding and didn't seem to be in much pain, I recommended this course of action and the family agreed. The boat was about 1.5 miles away from the accident site, and because I didn't want the kid walking on that leg, we elected to carry him. The father, my climbing partner Tom, and I took turns piggy-backing the 130-pound kid all the way to the boat, which was somewhat exhausting.
The family suited up in their flotation devices while I wrote out instructions on how to call off the search once they were within cell service (and also how to call my wife so that she could stop worrying if I was trapped under a boulder). I also left the beacon with them, assuming that if anyone was tracking it down, they'd be more useful with the kid than at my campsite where nothing was wrong. With the necessary information delivered and the kid still doing very well considering the circumstances, Tom and I headed back to camp and the family headed out across the lake in their boat.
About an hour later, the SAR chopper arrived but at that point there was no one to pick up. I learned later that the SAR ground team was at the trailhead when the family arrived at their car, so the confusion over who it was that needed rescuing got cleared up quickly, the SAR mission was terminated, and my family (who had been doing a great job of finding all the information the SAR team was asking for) was informed that I was fine.
Of course no one knew where I was at this point so there was no means of communicating to me that the search was over, and until we hiked out the following morning and got within cell phone coverage, I wasn't certain that the search for me wasn't still going on.
Anyway, happy ending all around. I've since talked with the father; his son got to the hospital in Pinedale, WY, that night and got a whopping 43 stitches and is recovering nicely.
And that's how I spent my vacation week. For those who are interested, we did not summit Gannet Peak; the water level was too high for the Well's Creek route and we ended up being too exhausted after finding a shallow place to cross the Green River to continue up Tourist Creek to our high camp. So it was a great backpacking trip in the Green River Valley for which we each brought many kilos of unnecessary mountaineering equipment. Helping out a kid in need was a nice way to finish off the trip.
For all of you whose blood pressure went through the roof when the news of my beacon being activated arrived, I apologize.