Karen Klein: Pennsylvania Woman Walked 30 Hours Through Snow And Forest To Get Help For Her Family

Karen Klein, a Pennsylvania mother, walked for 30 hours through dense forest packed with snow, subsisting on twigs and her own urine, in order to get help for her family, CNN is reporting.

Klein’s story begins with GPS. Karen and her husband, Eric, and their 10-year-old son had decided to visit the Grand Canyon. The main road to the canyon’s north rim, State Road 67, is closed for the winter. Using GPS, they were directed to forestry service roads.

Pennsylvania mom grand canyon.
Karen Klein’s story of survival begins with faulty GPS directions. [Image by Andrewy_Popov/Shutterstock]

However, Klein’s GPS directions led them into the exact opposite situation they wanted to be in. As heavy snow fell on unplowed and unmaintained roads, the family decided to turn around. Unfortunately, their car fell into a ditch and got stuck. With no cell phone coverage, no civilization nearby, heavy snow continuing to fall, and with little to no food or water, Karen did the only thing she knew to do.

On Thursday afternoon, with a small amount of water and a few snacks, she set about to hiking through the snow and the forest to try to find help. She thought she might find help just a few short miles away, where she believed a nearby major highway ran.

Fortunately for Karen Klein, she is a triathlete trained in survival. Unfortunately, though, nature doesn’t care about such things, and even the fittest, most well-equipped person can find themselves in over their heads — especially in the winter. Once she got to the nearby highway that she thought would be her salvation, she found that it, too, had been closed for the winter. She kept trekking.

By Friday morning, Klein’s family back in Pennsylvania were starting to panic, according to the Allentwon Morning Call.


By Friday morning, Klein’s husband, Eric, had been sitting together in the car, snowed in, having nothing to eat and despairing of ever being rescued. Realizing he and his son would die of thirst or exposure if something wasn’t done soon, he and the boy set out to find help. Eric was, fortunately, able to get to the top of a nearby hill and call for help.

Karen was still missing.

As a search and rescue effort mounted, Karen kept trudging through the dense forest. Within a few hours after leaving, her water ran out. She subsisted by drinking her own urine. When her food ran out, she ate twigs. At one point, she took off her shoe to remove a piece of ice; unable to get it back on, she kept hiking without it.

Suffering from frostbite, exposure, and malnourishment, Karen kept on. She resisted the overwhelming urge to sleep, fearing that she would get hypothermia and that death would take her while she slept. She’d walk 10 feet, collapse, recover, and walk 10 more feet.

This went on until she was able to find an empty guard shack. She broke a window, climbed inside, and huddled under blankets to stay warm. It was there that rescuers found her alive, six hours after she broke in.

Karen’s sister, Kristen Haase, says that giving up was never an option for her twin.

“She would make a decision and she would stick to it and never give up. She would do it or she would die trying. What kept her going, she says, is she didn’t want her mother to bury her daughter. She didn’t want her son to be without a mother.”

Klein is now in a hospital recovering from her ordeal. She’s likely to lose several toes to frostbite, but otherwise she’s going to be fine. Eric and her son are also going to be okay.

Karen Klein hopes to be back in Pennsylvania by next week so she and her twin sister can celebrate their 47th birthday together.

[Featured Image by juliasv/Shutterstock]