SILVERTON — An injured hiker rescued this week after 40 hours in the woods during a snowstorm said she huddled under a tree for protection from the elements, slept in a ball to avoid hypothermia and conserved her cell phone battery in case she got service, a newspaper reported Friday.
Leslie Drapiza, an experienced hiker and physician from Silverton, went for a solo, 12-mile hike of Mount Defiance on Super Bowl Sunday. The 42-year-old mother of three made good time to the 5,0110-foot summit and began her descent as snow fell.
With the snow and fallen trees, Drapiza couldn’t find the Starvation Ridge Trail, which she had planned to follow back to her car. She crossed Warren Creek once and then decided to backtrack.
This spot has gotten many people lost over the years.
On her second crossing of Warren Creek, Drapiza slipped and fell, dropping down an embankment and falling into the creek gully.
“I fell so far that I remember being able to register, ‘Wow, I’m really falling,’” she said. “Then, I hit something and came to a stop.”
Drapiza had sprained her ankle, and she decided to hike along Warren Creek instead of trying to scramble back up the embankment. As night fell, she huddled under a tree for protection from the snow and tried to keep warm.
“I zipped my shell up over my mouth to retain the warmth from my exhaled breath,” she said.
Before she slept fitfully, she was able to get a text out to her mother giving her rough location and saying she was injured and likely needed a rescue.
The following day, Drapiza tried to make it back to the Mount Defiance Trail, but nothing looked familiar so she returned to Warren Creek — she knew if she followed it long enough, she’d see Interstate 84 as it winds through the Columbia River Gorge.
She tried calling 911 one more time. It connected.
“They put me on hold, which drove me crazy because the battery was at like 1 percent, but when they answered they said, ‘We’ve been looking for you.’”
The phone call allowed her to give an exact location.
As darkness fell on Feb. 4, rescuers reached Drapiza and ultimately got her out of her precarious spot hours later.