'I was constantly looking for things to do to distract me'

Israeli hiker recounts spending 16 hours injured, alone on freezing Georgia mountain

Sagi Ayalot never lost hope his friends would manage to call for help after 30-meter fall down snowy cliff in country’s north; chopper finally spotted him on following morning

Sagi Ayalot speaking with Channel 12 on October 25, 2022. (Screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Sagi Ayalot speaking with Channel 12 on October 25, 2022. (Screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

An Israeli trekker recently fell down a rocky slope in the snowy Georgian mountains, breaking his leg and spending 16 freezing hours alone, leaning against a tree on a steep slope while his friends continued on and eventually brought help.

Sagi Ayalot recounted the ordeal in an interview Tuesday with Channel 12 news, saying that a day before the accident, he and his two trekking partners Yaniv Ben Aryeh and Doron Sahar had been hiking in sunny weather at an altitude of 3,000 meters when they were caught in a sudden snowstorm in the European country’s north, forcing them to abandon their plans.

After spending the night in tents on a different side of the mountain, with the storm having passed but the ground covered in thick snow, the trio decided to head for the nearest village. During this effort, Ayalot lost his footing, tumbling 30 meters down the side of the mountain and breaking his leg in the process.

After Ayalot’s fall at 2:30 p.m., Ben Aryeh provided medical aid before the group collectively decided the best course of action was for the two uninjured trekkers to continue on and seek help, while Ayalot remained perched against to a tree to ensure he didn’t continue to slide further down the slope.

“It was clear to me that this was going to be a challenge and that there wouldn’t be a quick rescue — I would probably have to spend the night alone,” Ayalot said.

With the pain in his leg preventing any chance of sleep, Ayalot explained that he occupied himself throughout the night with “small tasks” like changing his bandages, changing his clothing and even sewing. “I was constantly looking for things to do to distract me until dawn.”

A view of the Caucasus Mountains near Kazbegi, Georgia, on June 4, 2013. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Ayalot admitted that the possibility that rescuers wouldn’t be able to locate him occurred to him for a moment, “but very quickly I told myself not to deal with these ideas because I completely trusted that they would reach me safely.”

After 16 hours of waiting, at around 8 a.m., a helicopter finally came in search of the injured trekker, who signaled by throwing an orange bag cover toward the top of the tree, leading to the rescuers successfully identifying his location despite the heavy morning fog.

“It’s a happy moment, like a weight off my chest. I realized the ordeal was over, that it was just a matter of time until I hike again,” Ayalot said.

“I hope to be back trekking as quickly as possible.”

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