Brave Mom Nearly Dies After Hiking 30 Hours Through Frozen Wilderness To Get Help For Her Family

December 27, 2016

Karen Klein walked through 26 freezing miles, subsisting on just twigs and her urine, in order to get help for her husband and 10-year-old son after their car fell in a ditch off a secluded road.

woman surives hike through snow to save family
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Karen was headed to the Grand Canyon National Park with her husband Eric and their 10-year-old son. State Road 67, which leads to the canyon's north rim, is closed for the winter and their car's GPS detoured them through forest service roads.

Snow covered the road, and when the family tried to turn around, their car fell into a ditch. There were no signs of civilization around them and snow was falling hard.

Karen was a triathlete who had taken wilderness survival classes. So, she said goodbye to her husband and son and, armed with some water and a few snacks, she set off.

After 24 hours and no sign of his wife, Eric decided to hike to higher ground where he was able to get a phone signal to call for help.

But Karen was still missing.

Shortly after midnight Saturday morning, searchers found her. She was inside a guard shack closed for the season at the northern rim gate.

She was barely conscious and suffering from exposure. She had hiked 26 miles for 30 straight hours.

"She would make a decision and she would stick to it and never give up," her twin sister, Kristen Haase, told WFMZ. "She would do it or she would die trying."

When she ran out of food and water, she ate pine twigs and drank her urine, her sister told the Morning Call newspaper. Karen knew eating snow would hasten hypothermia.

At one point, Karen took off her left shoe to remove a piece of ice. She wasn't able to get the shoe back on. But, refusing to give up, she hiked the last four miles without it.

It took nine hours for her to travel those last few miles. She'd walk 10 feet, collapse, pick herself back up and collapse again.

A will to live

Karen had now been awake for over 45 hours. Terrified of falling asleep and succumbing to hypothermia, she refused to stop until she found the guard shack.

Breaking a window to get inside, Karen huddled under some blankets inside the shack for another six hours until rescuers found her. Her sister says she never doubted her sister's will to live.

"What kept her going, she says, is she didn't want her mother to bury her daughter. She didn't want her son to be without a mother," Haase said.

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