GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. - A 40-year-old hiker is now safe tonight, but soupy weather kept him stranded on a ledge in Greene County for more than 24 hours.
It almost seemed like crews gave up hope of getting him Friday because of the weather. The Blackhawk helicopter actually left to return to North Carolina because they couldn't catch a break in the fog, but a small clearing in the fog finally gave the crew a chance to save the hiker.
Friday crews spent the day looking at maps, sending rescue crews from Washington County, Tennessee and Greene County on foot trying to reach the 40-year-old hiker and leaving the helicopter on standby.
Wesley Miller with the Greeneville Rescue Squad took part in the rescue. "It's just been extremely difficult trying to access the top of that from the ground due to loose rock and slick rock," he explained.
Miller tells us the hiker was stuck about 400 feet off the base of the cliff near Margarette Falls. "He was able to climb himself without being a professional climber but that was before the weather hit so now everything is slicker, the rocks are looser," he said.
Miller tells us the biggest obstacle they faced was the weather -- the rainy and foggy conditions. The Blackhawk helicopter waited around all day and even left to go home; when it seemed almost hopeless, EMS crews called them back because they had a small break in the fog. It only took five minutes to rescue him once they got in the air.
The hiker was able to walk from the helicopter to the ambulance. Rescue crews say he was lucky that he wasn't injured any worse after being stranded for 24 hours. "He got to a place where he just couldn't turn around. It just got too slick, so I think he just got to a point where he can't come back up and he can't go back up."
The hiker was greeted by family members who had been waiting for his safe return.
Kim Taylor with the Greeneville EMS tells us there was another hiker in the group injured. He didn't get as high up as the one that was rescued, but he lost his footing and fell.
Taylor says he had to get a few staples in his head, but it wasn't anything too serious.
UPDATE 4:57 p.m.: The 40-year-old hiker who was stranded in Greene County is now safe.
A Blackhawk helicopter from the Army National Guard in North Carolina was able to rescue him. Greene County EMA director Bill Brown tells us the helicopter finally caught a break in the fog.
Members of the Greene County Rescue Squad tell us it took the helicopter about five minutes to get him once they got in the air.
Brown tells us the hiker was able to walk from the helicopter but he was taken to the Laughlin Memorial Hospital to be checked out.
We're told the hiker got stuck after he was hiking with friends.
UPDATE 2:01 p.m.: Crews are still working to rescue the hiker.
The helicopter at the scene left because it's still too foggy for it to fly. Click here to view photos of the helicopter.
Ground teams are still out, but according to the Greene County EMS it will take them about four more hours to get to where the hiker is.
Greene County rescuers have spent numerous hours working on a plan to rescue a hiker that is stranded.
They have been on the scene since 2 p.m. Thursday.
The attached map shows the area where they area working. Click here to view photos from the scene.
The hiker is stranded on a ledge near Margarette Falls. Rescuers say that area is unsafe to climb, and on Thursday it was too windy to get a helicopter to the hiker.
Wesley Miller with the Greeneville rescue squad gave us the following information:
"The call came in around 2:00 Thursday from somebody in the hiking party. Crews have been [at the scene] since then trying to rescue one hiker that is still stuck.
One hiker that was injured was able to walk out on his own and was treated at Laughlin Memorial Hospital in Greeneville with minor injures.
There is one hiker still stuck about 400 feet from the base of Margarette Falls, and we're told it's mostly rock.
Crews had some verbal contact with him around 2:00 a.m. Friday. The injured hiker said he had built a fire off and on. That was the last time they had contact with the hiker.
The hiker is in a t-shirt and shorts which is why crews are worrying about hypothermia.
Right now the weather isn't helping the search. A helicopter from the National Guard in North Carolina [is at the scene] and on standby for when the weather and fog clears.
Crews aren't sure how long it could take because of weather and terrain."
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