Family of missing hiker recounts harrowing weekend
| May 17, 2023 1:00 AM
The family of the hiker who went missing in Glacier National Park over the weekend say 19-year-old Matthew Read is recovering and receiving treatment after spending several days lost in the wilderness.
Read is a chemical engineering student at Brigham Young University in Utah who was passing through the national park on a trip back east after the end of the semester. He set out to hike the Huckleberry Lookout Trail on Friday afternoon and was reported missing on Sunday. Search and rescue crews began looking for Read that day and located him late Monday night using a thermal scan.
Read’s mother Barbara and his sister Charlotte spoke to reporters about his ordeal on Wednesday.
Barbara said he has been alert and himself the entire time. He is experiencing some pain from the knees down, but X-rays haven’t shown any broken bones. She said doctors are most concerned with his legs after being cold for such an extended period of time. They are working on getting him flown to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he will receive treatment for frostbite using hyperbaric oxygen.
Read is the youngest of five children and grew up in Michigan. His parents and most of his siblings arrived in Kalispell during the search and rescue efforts. Before crews found him Monday night, they were losing hope that he was still alive.
“We just thought that he was gone, and we were comforting each other in our sorrow. And then we got this phone call from my other sister Sarah, a very short call, and she just said ‘He's in the hospital, in the Logan hospital.’ And we just started screaming and hugging each other,” Charlotte said.
They said Read employed a few skills he learned as an Eagle Scout. His mother remembers he particularly enjoyed the “Polar Bear Camp Out” when he was younger and insisted on camping in the cold while others opted for a cabin. Barbara said the skills he learned from that aided him last weekend.
“He's very capable, intelligent, sincere — he's just an all around good guy that you can depend on. And in this circumstance, I guess he had to depend and be there for himself in a way, and just trust that we were coming,” Barbara said.
During his hike, Read attempted to cross a snow bank and slipped into an unknown drainage on the east side of Huckleberry Mountain. Determining he could not make it back up the trail, he started working his way down the drainage.
Barbara said the scoot marks left in the snow provided the biggest clue for search and rescue crews as they tried to determine Read’s whereabouts. He made shelter the first night using a tree, but it was in such a dense area that he continued down the mountain to find an area where crews could more easily locate him.
Barbara said he was too weak by then to build a shelter as effective as his first, but erected another near clear, running water. Charlotte said after the rescue, a U.S. Border Patrol agent told them he made a few very smart decisions that contributed to his survival.
“He said, ‘Such a blessing, [Read] was so smart to build a shelter and stay close to water, not many people would have known to do that,’” Charlotte recalled.
Read told his family he understood that with all of the fog and clouds it would be difficult to get helicopters out there. But upon hearing helicopters, he felt hope.
While making his way through the wilderness, he said he kept going by remembering all of the friends and family who would be waiting for him once he was rescued.
“The first thing that my husband and I said to him was, ‘We are so proud of you, and thank you for not giving up hope until we could get there,’” Barbara said.
The family has been impressed with the hospitality they’ve received during their stay in Kalispell. Barbara said she’s gotten more hugs in the last three days than she has in the past few years.
“I don’t know if everybody in Montana just hugs each other or if it was because of what happened to us, but it has been incredible,” she said. “People have brought us meals, offered to pay for our hotel, or someone's letting us stay at their cabin for free. They ask ‘What do you need?’ And when we don't even know what we need, well, then they figure it out and give us something anyway.”
She said they have been very happy with the care Read’s received at Logan Health and are working with the hospital to get him flown to the Mayo Clinic as soon as possible.
In a video message released to the press by his family, Read said he is grateful to all those who assisted in searching for him and to the medical professionals who have helped him.
“For all the people who have prayed for me, I just cannot say enough from the bottom of my heart, how thankful I am for all of you," Read said. "Thank you."