GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Park rangers rescued four hikers Wednesday who had become stranded in snow in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (search). One had to be airlifted to a hospital.
The sick hiker, Matthew Schultz (search), was in stable condition after he was taken to the hospital as a precaution, park spokesman Bob Miller said. He had been showing signs of hypothermia, including vomiting and slurred speech.
The others, identified as Ivan Saldarriaga, Bryan Hendricks and Ryn McCall, were well enough to walk out of the mountains with rangers after spending the night huddled in a three-sided shelter.
Three of the hikers are 19 and the other turns 19 on Thursday. One attends the University of Virginia (search), and the others are students at North Carolina State University.
The men started out during good weather Sunday with plans to hike the 71 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the park.
However, they were ill-equipped when rain started falling Monday and then turned to snow, authorities said. A group of backpackers came across them at a shelter Tuesday. Two of the backpackers went for help while the others stayed with the stranded hikers.
"They were in pretty bad shape. Their gear was poor and their clothes were wet," said Ryan Wilson, 26, one of the backpackers who found the hikers.
The park straddles the line between North Carolina and Tennessee and is the most visited of the national parks. The Appalachian Trail stretches 2,174 miles between Maine and Georgia.