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Hiking soldier says he fended off bears while awaiting Navy helo rescue

NEWHALEM, Wash. — A fallen hiker with a broken leg said he fended off bears in the North Cascades this weekend while he waited several hours for a helicopter team to rescue him, according to the U.S. Navy.

The man, 50, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in a fall while climbing at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain — a peak along the Pacific Crest Trail, due north of Tower Mountain and southeast of Ross Lake — around 5 p.m. Saturday, June 21, said Mike Welding, a public affairs officer with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The hiker activated a beacon that notified his wife. She called the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain. So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note inside: A second helicopter, an MH-60S Knighthawk from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

The Navy aircrew launched at 10:20 p.m. Less than an hour later, they spotted the hiker's strobe light. They loaded the injured man into a rescue basket and gave him intravaneous fluids and pain medicine while en route to St. Joseph hospital.

He told the aircrew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but he'd fended them off with bear spray. He had no injuries that would suggest he'd been mauled, Welding said.

The hiker is on active duty with the Army, Welding said. His name and condition haven't been released.

This weekend most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet.

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