This Seriously Injured Bushwalker Revealed Exactly How He Survived Being Stranded On A Mountain

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It’s a dry day in Queensland, Australia, and Neil Parker is making his way up a waterfall. But suddenly, he loses his footing on the slippery rock and plunges 20 feet into the creek below. As he counts his injuries, panic begins to set in. His leg is snapped, dangling uselessly from his body, and he has no way to call for help. Will he ever make it back to his family again?

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Ironically, this is far from the most challenging walk that Parker has undertaken. The three-hour stroll on Mount Nebo, in fact, should have been a breeze. But as the hours and days tick by, the unfortunate hiker begins to contemplate death. Meanwhile, a search party scans the wooded terrain for the missing man.

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Located some 20 miles outside Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city, Mount Nebo is a popular spot with families looking to enjoy a pleasurable hike. And with its gentle slopes blanketed with cabbage tree palms, it might seem perfect for beginners. But lurking beneath the canopies is surprisingly challenging terrain – one that is ready to catch out the unprepared.

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An experienced bushwalker, Parker thought little of heading out to tackle the route up Mount Nebo alone. But thanks to the slippery conditions, his short hike soon turned into a nightmare of epic proportions. And after days of surviving on meager and dwindling supplies, his chances of survival began to grow slim.

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Prior to Parker’s fateful hike on Mount Nebo, he lived an active, independent life in the state of Queensland in northeast Australia. At one point, he was married with a family, although he later separated from his wife. Meanwhile, his children moved overseas, and reports claim that he was estranged from his son.

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Despite Parker’s troubled personal life, however, he took solace in the great outdoors. In fact, he was so passionate about it that he spent time volunteering for a Queensland-based walking group. Dubbed the Brisbane Bushwalkers, the organization leads treks and outdoor activities as well as extended multi-day hikes.

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On top of that, Parker also spent seven years as a volunteer for the state’s emergency service. And in this role, he helped rescue people who had fallen foul of Australia’s sometimes fearsome and dangerous environment. He also somehow found the time to establish his own bushwalking club.

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A popular pastime in Australia, bushwalking involves trekking the often untamed and remote terrain of the wilderness, or bush. And even though the vast majority of the country’s inhabitants reside in cities, millions of people escape to rural areas on a regular basis. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 30 percent of the population enjoys the activity on a semi-regular basis.

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Of course, it’s easy to see why. At almost three million square miles, Australia is staggeringly vast in size, and its terrain offers plenty of opportunities for adventure. And while there are many routes that require a high level of fitness and last for multiple days, there are also a great number of simpler treks that are suitable for beginners.

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At Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory, for example, bushwalkers in search of a gentler route can trek for four miles through Watarrka National Park. But at the other end of the scale are challenges such as the Larapinta Trail. Stretching from Mount Sonder in the west to Alice Springs in the east, this 140-mile trek takes around 14 days to complete.

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But while bushwalking is undoubtedly an enjoyable activity, it’s one that comes with its fair share of dangers as well. In the summer, for example, temperatures in Australia often top 40°F. And as a result, hikers have to contend with threats to their health such as heat exhaustion, dehydration and exposure.

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On top of that, the weather in Australia’s national parks can be very changeable. And while wet weather brings with it the risk of flash flooding, dry spells can usher in deadly bushfires. Meanwhile, during the colder months, hikers need to be aware of the risks of conditions such as hypothermia.

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If that wasn’t enough, Australia’s wildlife is also famous as being among the most deadly in the world. And while forward planning can keep hikers safe from many risks, there is little to guard against an encounter with a venomous spider or snake. In fact, it should come as no surprise that sometimes even the most experienced bushwalkers can get into trouble.

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For many people, the best way to safeguard against the dangers of the bush is to join an organized hiking group. And as such, clubs such as Parker’s are big business in Australia. Founded in 1948, the Brisbane Bushwalkers started life when a visiting South African adventurer decided to establish a walking society.

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Over the years, Brisbane Bushwalkers has grown into the biggest hiking club in the whole of Queensland. And through their activities, many keen hikers get to safely discover and explore the wilderness beyond the city. However, the bush is never completely risk-free – as Parker was about to find out.

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Today, most Brisbane Bushwalkers’ routes take hikers through the natural beauty of South East Queensland. And while their more challenging treks can take up to 12 hours to complete, the easier options involve just a four-hour hike. Ironically, however, it was one of these less demanding adventures that landed Parker in big trouble.

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On September 15, 2019, Parker set out on a solo trek into the bush. Apparently, his goal was to try out a new route with a view to adding it to the Brisbane Bushwalkers’ roster. At just three hours long, it would have been one of the group’s easier treks. In fact, few could have predicted the disaster that was about to unfold.

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That day, the destination Parker chose was Mount Nebo, a peak in Queensland that stretches almost 1,500 feet above sea level. Located just 11 miles northwest of The Gap, a suburb of Brisbane, it’s a spot that combines accessibility with stunning views. And despite its proximity to the city, the mountain offers hiking through thick rainforest terrain.

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At Mount Nebo, Parker planned to trek through an area known as Cabbage Tree Creek. In this part of the mountain, a popular ten-mile hike takes bushwalkers on a challenging adventure. However, the guide was seeking a simpler option and estimated that his route could be completed in around half the time.

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As Parker was only planning a short trek, the experienced adventurer did not take much in the way of supplies. In fact, he only brought a few light snacks along in order to keep his energy levels up throughout the hike. Crucially, he also broke an important rule by not telling anyone his whereabouts – a mistake he would later regret.

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After walking for a little over an hour and a half, Parker came to a waterfall. Apparently, it was a route that he had already taken a number of times before. But as he began to climb the falls, he realized that things would be more challenging this time around. Reportedly, lime had settled on the dry rocks, creating conditions that were slippery underfoot.

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At some point along the way, Parker slipped. “I caught myself the first time as I started to slide, but I had too much momentum and over I went,” the bushwalker told reporters in September 2019. “I was climbing up, so I started looking down and I started sliding down the face of the rock.”

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And soon, things went from bad to worse. “I slid about 20 feet, cartwheeled and slammed into the rock and then landed in the creek on the bottom,” Parker recalled. But an unexpected drop was the last of his worries. In the fall, the adventurer also sustained severe injuries, managing to fracture both his wrist and his leg.

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“My left foot, just below the ankle, clean snapped in half,” Parker explained to reporters. “The whole bottom of my leg came loose.” But despite his injuries, the adventurer began looking for a way out. However, before he could find one, disaster struck once more. “I went to put my phone into my pocket and missed and into the drink [it went] – now my phone is gone,” he continued.

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Typically, bushwalkers tend to carry an emergency beacon that allows them to alert the authorities if things go wrong. And until recently, Parker had brought one along whenever he went on a hike. However, his ex-wife had ended up with the device after their separation. Confident that he could complete the short Mount Nebo trek without aid, he had yet to purchase another.

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Tragically, however, that meant that Parker was left with no way of contacting the outside world. And soon, he realized that the only chance he had of making it out alive was to rescue himself. Using bandages from his first aid kit, the adventurer fashioned a splint out of hiking sticks. And slowly, he began an arduous trek in search of help.

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Given the woodland terrain of Mount Nebo, Parker realized that he needed to reach a clearing in order to be spotted. But in his condition, that was easier said than done. “I had to carry my leg, and legs are very heavy when they’re not connected to anything,” he told reporters in September 2019.

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“[I was] trying to pick [my leg] up and get over rock and then use this elbow and this arm and just constantly struggling,” Parker continued. And although he had painkillers from his first aid kit, he had limited food to sustain him. Fueled by just a protein bar, nuts and some lollies, the adventurer spent two days battling to reach the clearing.

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“I’d get about a meter, a metrer-and-a-half, each time before I had to stop and take a break,” Parker recalled. “I just couldn’t believe it. It’s only three kilometers [two miles], but it took two days to cover [it]. I was thinking that I was never going to get there.” And as the hours ticked by, he began to contemplate his fate.

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“It was getting very emotional thinking – it’s not a nice way to die, just laying here waiting, waiting,” Parker told reporters. However, it was ultimately the thought of his family that sustained him – and persuaded him to keep going. “I wanted to be around for my kids,” he explained.

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Inch-by-inch, Parker slowly made headed towards his goal. However, the odds were stacked against the stricken adventurer. “Essentially, with an ankle fracture like he’s got, the limb is a deadweight and useless,” Dr Nicola Ward, an orthopedic surgeon, told ABC News in September 2019. “You can’t walk on it, you can’t put weight through it and you need to drag it.”

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On the first evening, Parker claims, he came tantalizingly close to rescue. “I saw the police helicopter come over on Sunday night and I was right down by the creek bed so I had access to water,” he told reporters. However, the pilot did not spot him. The stricken hiker then knew that he needed to keep going if he wanted to be seen.

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According to reports, though, the authorities were not actually looking for Parker at that time. But the next day, when the hiker failed to arrive at work, his boss reached out to his ex-wife. And with the help of the Brisbane Bushwalkers, she launched a search effort to find him. By that time, however, the adventurer had already spent a night in the open with minimal supplies.

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“I was fairly worried because I hadn’t told anybody where I was going,” Parker told reporters. “I had no way of contacting them to tell them where I was. So it was the worst possible scenario. [I was thinking how] I’ve done some of the hardest walks in Australia and not injured myself. And going on a three-hour training track and I’ve come to grief big time.”

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Eventually, on the afternoon of September 17, a helicopter crew spotted Parker struggling through the bush. And after being air-lifted to safety, the exhausted hiker was delivered to Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital. There, he began the lengthy process of recovery. According to Ward, though, he was lucky to survive at all.

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“I’ve never heard [of] any such survival effort with two broken limbs,” Ward admitted in an interview with ABC News. “[Parker has] done extremely well.” However, she noted that it could be a long time before he is able to walk on his damaged leg again. “Ultimately, with a fracture like this, you can expect eight to ten weeks of non-weight bearing,” the doctor explained.

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Meanwhile, Steve Simpson, president of Brisbane Bushwalkers, told reporters that Mount Nebo can be an accessible hike. However, he pointed out that the region where Parker was found should only be tackled by capable bushwalkers. And even though he knew that his guide had the skills, he was thankful for the positive outcome.

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“[Parker is] a very confident, capable and experienced walker and he’s learned survival skills in our club,” Simpson told ABC News. “You just never know in those terrains what can happen.” Meanwhile, Parker himself has credited his walking experience with helping him to get out of the ordeal alive.

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“First thing I thought was, ‘I’m not going to die out here, I’m going to live,’” Parker told ABC News. “It’s all through what I’ve been trained to do and what I’ve learned – the experience people have given me is pretty much what made the difference, I think.” Elsewhere, he also credited his ex-wife for the lessons that she had taught him in the past.

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As Parker recovers, his story looks set to take another happy twist. “My kids live overseas,” he told reporters. “They’re coming over next week, so it will be good to see them.” It seems as if his brush with death might, in fact, bring him closer to his estranged son. According to reports, they plan to reunite for the first time in years.

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