Tonight formally missing 70 year old hiker Albert Morgan Briggs is making his home in a tent perched about 4,800 feet up on Porters Mountain drinking Gatorade and eating food dropped down to him by helicopter this afternoon which also dropped a 2 way radio which he has now turned off to conserve battery life.
Though the weather was shaky all morning long and early in the afternoon, it finally cleared up enough that a helicopter was able to assist on the search for Mr. Albert Morgan Briggs who was backpacking and not been seen or heard from since Sunday morning.
It was just plain old perseverance which found Mr. Briggs as a search and rescue crew up on the Appalachian Trail (AT) noticed a yellow tent about a mile due north of Charles Bunion purchased on a rock outcropping which he was unable to move from due to the extreme terrain in the area (See Map Below).
A helicopter was sent to his approximate location with the help of the spotters on the AT. Upon the helicopters arrival at about 4:15 Morgan signaled to it by waving his arms and with a red handkerchief that had with him.
Since there is no location near him the helicopter could set down, it flew back to the park headquarters where they loaded a pack with food, drink, a sleeping bag and a 2 way walkie talkie which was dropped to him as it was getting too dark for the crew on the ground to try to reach him in safety.
The rescue coordinators had a brief conversation on the radio with Mr. Albert Morgan Briggs to confirm that he was not injured and safe in his current location and that a rescue operation will take place to extract him from the ridge-line on Porters Mountain tomorrow.
Morgan's son has been contacted by the park service and advised of his status and the park services rescue plans.
Two concurrent rescue plans to extract Mr. Briggs are being put into action early tomorrow morning. The first rescue operation calls for 2 separate 4 man teams to be sent out to climb up to the peak of Porters Mountain to extract Mr. Briggs.
The second rescue operation which would be the preferred way to extract him but is dependent on the weather involves a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter which if it can fly will attempt to extract Morgan by hoist, pull him aboard and then land in the Sugarlands parking area by mid-morning.
I will be at vantage point on the top of mountain that looks directly out at the Porters Peak and may be able to capture the rescue if it is done by air. I will be twittering updates from my position at the peak of Shields Mountain in Sevierville.
Luckily though he put himself in a terrible position high atop an inaccessible ridge, at least he had enough experience to not try to get down and injure himself or be in a location in which he could not be spotted. Warm though wet weather has also keep the chance of exposure to a minimum and with the help of the additional sleeping bag he should be quite comfortable though anxious tonight.
Mr. Albert Morgan Briggs knows the park well as he was one of the national parks first ridge runners working along the Appalachian Trail and now works in the backcountry permit office in the Sugarlands visitor center just outside of Gatlinburg Tennessee.
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