Rescued hiker opens up about harrowing ordeal in Montana

Posted at 12:12 AM, Oct 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-19 12:37:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The rangers that picked up the Virginia hikers lost for three days in 18 inches of snow said that most of the time—after that many days elapses—they aren’t looking for live people anymore.

Dr. Jason Hiser has a story that only one other person can really tell this well, his college buddy Dr. Neal Peckens.

To survive six days in Glacier National Park bitter cold and raging wind, as he describes them,  Hiser and Peckens melted snow to drink over the few fires they were able to start.

"We built a huge S.O.S. signal on the side of the hill using burnt down pine trees so they were black,” Hiser detailed. “We hung these neon orange flags from trees so we could be seen.”

He said in addition to those efforts,  “that we did a lot of sitting around and just conserving energy.”  “That's not good because when you're sitting you're thinking,” he added.

And as Hiser sat in the tent waiting, he sat next to his good friend that he met in veterinarian school. 

At one point in the backcountry, Hiser turned to Peckens and told him there was no one else he would rather be stuck with in that kind of situation.

"Neal's a smart, smart guy.  I think between the two of us we made some really good decisions.  I don't know, I would like to think I could do it without him, but I don't know,” Hiser said.

Back in Richmond, Hiser's pregnant wife Jane sat waiting for any kind of word.

"There were times when that would really wear you down; thinking about your wife sitting at home…she's 8 months pregnant,” Hiser said. “She had a baby shower she was supposed to have on Saturday, and here she is probably sitting their crying trying to muster her way through it and it's all my fault. “

Just this time last week Jason Hiser was lost in the Montana wilderness. 

He said he is happy to be home and has been humbled by the outpouring of support from across the country.