"Hear that?" Gary Moses looked out over the valley. "That's the sound of your rescue."
Piloting a helicopter at moments like this is like pedaling an exercise bike on the roof of a two-story building while trying to dangle a hot dog into the mouth of a jar on the ground. Lying on his back, Johan watched.
The IV had kicked in. Though stiff and still cold, he was wide awake and in no pain. Anticipation was everything, and he remembered feeling a little afraid. He hated roller coasters and worried about his stomach.
"You'll have the best view of your life," Moses said, hiding his worry. He knew getting Anderson in would be tricky. Because helicopters can't cast sharply defined shadows on steep terrain, pilots flying short-haul missions have trouble judging closing speeds and distances.
Anderson, dangling at the end of the rope, had a radio in his helmet. He was using it to direct Justus lower and closer to Johan. Abruptly, the radio died.
"I'm at your 11 o'clock position, a mile out," Moses broke in with his radio, once he understood the problem. "Half mile, 12 o'clock."
"Do I need to come up or down?"
"Up about 10 feet."
Then just as Justus got closer, he caught Anderson's shadow on the ledge and set him down about 20 feet to the right of Johan. The other rangers shielded Johan from the rotor wash and dust.
Anderson unhooked himself. Justus moved the helicopter away. With the rangers' help, Anderson slid the body board beneath Johan and strapped the Bauman Bag around him. He waved Justus back in.
"We're ready to lift."
"Roger, ready to lift."
Johan couldn't tell when he was off the ground. Dangling with Anderson beside him, 150 feet beneath the helicopter, all Johan would see was Anderson's face, the blue sky and the belly of the chopper. The wind whistled around him.
"Woo hoo!" The hikers and rangers on the mountain started cheering and clapping.
With Johan and Anderson still beneath him, Justus accelerated down the valley to the helipad at Many Glacier. A waiting crowd was asked not to take pictures. Johan was transferred into an ambulance while Justus went back to pick up Jenna. Finally Johan was out of the wind and in a warm place.
Then he heard the news.
"Jenna is here," someone said.
"Hi, sweetie," he called out as they prepared to fly him to the medical center in Kalispell. With his head wrapped in bandages, mummy slits for his eyes and the C-collar on his neck, Johan couldn't see her. "Make sure when they call Mom that you talk to her."
He knew he wouldn't be the one making that call.
"Otherwise she'll totally freak out," he said.