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Published on June 11, 2024
Gwinnett County Hiker Shares Tale of Survival After 4-Day Ordeal on Guatemalan VolcanoSource: Google Street View

In what reads like the plotline of a harrowing survival drama, Zain Waliany, a Gwinnett County hiker, recounted his experience of getting lost and ultimately rescued after a four-day ordeal on a volcano in Guatemala. As reported by Atlanta News First, Waliany and his friend embarked to hike the towering Acatenango volcano. Suffering from altitude sickness, the two decided to separate, a move that led Waliany to get stranded without adequate provisions when his phone died shortly before reaching the summit.

Despite the desperate situation, Waliany managed to, by his own admission, "keep myself level-headed". His ordeal included taking a terrifying fall of nearly 400 feet, which paradoxically may have saved his life by breaking his descent through dense foliage. He also found an unexpected companion in a dog that appeared to help guide him to safer paths, as he avoided dangerous wildlife in the dense forest of Acatenango. "This dog periodically would disappear and come whenever I fell. So, it was a companion to have," Waliany told Atlanta News First.

Rescue efforts were mounted as soon as Waliany was reported missing, with local volunteers and teams like Black Wolf Helicopters deploying to locate him. Chris Sharpe from Black Wolf Helicopters was quoted by Atlanta News First saying, "We’re wearing oxygen, we’re so high. I would not do that risk if I didn’t believe he was alive," which highlights the treacherous conditions the rescuers had to navigate in the high-altitude environment.

Waliany's spirit and resilience were unquestionably strong factors in his survival. "Instead of focusing on how I could possibly be dying out here, it was like, 'What do I do to survive out here?'" he reflected in an interview obtained by Atlanta News First. According to a FOX 5 Atlanta interview, the family is now to work on bringing the dog who accompanied him during his ordeal back to the Atlanta metro area, ensuring the animal’s safety and possibly a new home.

In a tale that reinforces the unpredictability of nature and the human spirit's capacity to endure, Waliany's experience certainly serves as a stark reminder of both the risks associated with outdoor adventures and the power of camaraderie, even if it comes on four legs. As for Waliany, it seems his appetite for adventure remains undeterred; despite having his passport temporarily seized by his parents, he told FOX 5 Atlanta, "I will go hiking again."