An Idaho man is alive today only because of the grit and determination of his 13-year-old Idaho son who kept his head, applied the knowledge and training he’d learned from the Boy Scouts, and prayed during a three-day wilderness ordeal.

Salt Lake City attorney David Finlayson is an experienced mountaineer who has shared his love of the outdoors with his son, Charlie, in the jungles of Panama, backpacking across Canada and climbing Mt. Rainer. Their 12-day trip in the Bighorn Crags of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho was planned as an end-of-the-summer climb before Charlie started 8th grade.

Instead, a rolling boulder the size of a refrigerator crashed off the mountainside sending the father off a ledge, breaking his back, his left arm and left heel. A 12” gash in his shin left his bone exposed. The 45-year-old father lost consciousness after the 20-30’ fall down the mountain.

At that point, it was the calm reassurance of his teenaged son, Charlie, that made the difference between life and death. “He was my savior. “He just kind of coached me along with the pain and tried to help me not pass out. He kept talking to me all night.”

Charlie cleaned the open wound with water from nearby Ship Lake and used supplies from the first aid kid in a backpack to apply antiseptic and wrap the leg in a compress. The father and son spent the first night in the boulder field in sleeping bags the teenager retrieved from their campsite.

After a grueling day-long trek back to the campsite, Charlie set off for the trailhead on his own.

“Charlie choked back tears when he set off. He was just afraid to leave me because he didn’t know ... didn’t know if he’d see me again,” his father said from his hospital bed where he is recovering from surgery for his injuries.

Charlie found other climbers after a three-mile hike and a rescue operation was initiated. Due to the difficult terrain, a helicopter was called in from Two Bear Air based in Kalispell, Montana to fly Finlayson to Boise. “It was kind of interesting. It took my mind off the pain,” Finlayson recalled.

Charlie returned home for a day and then set off for Boy Scout camp where he would work to earn badges for hiking and wilderness survival.


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