FRESNO, California (KSEE) — A Fresno teen is back home after a day hike in Utah turned into a near-death experience. After getting the all-clear to fly back home from doctors, friends of Nicolas Stacy-Alcantara wanted to make sure he had a warm welcome home.
It’s been a surreal week for Shaylin Smoljan and Connor Wells — both are longtime friends of Stacy-Alcantara. They said when he was first reported missing that they lost sleep.
However, when they heard he was found, it was instant relief.
“When I saw him come out of the helicopter, just instant tears,” Smoljan said.
They checked in on their friend immediately when they learned he was taken to a hospital.
“I’d try to contact him every day [while he was in the hospital] and make sure he’s not bored,” Wells said.
Stacy-Alcantara set out for a hike at Millcreek Canyon in the Salt Lake City area on the morning of Jan. 2. Even after deciding to do a shorter hike, he decided the weather conditions were too much and tried to head back to the trailhead.
The weather was so bad he couldn’t, instead, he’d hole up in a snow cave he made. He’d stay out there for 30 hours, getting rescued only after running into backcountry skiers.
Stacy-Alcantara thought he’d lose his toes to frostbite, especially after losing his boots and wading through waist-deep snow. Fortunately, nothing had to be amputated.
When Wells and Smoljan learned exactly when their friend was coming back home — they made sure he got the welcome back he deserved. Getting some help, they made signs and cheered him on as he walked out of the terminal at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport Sunday.
They made sure he knew he was missed and loved. He definitely got the message.
“I used to think that…I was close to some people, but if a situation like this arose, I would’ve had that many people [by my side]. It’s awesome to see my friends showing their love for me,” Stacy-Alcantara said.
After surviving for more than a day in below-freezing temperatures and nearly losing his life, Stacy-Alcantara said he realized he can push through anything.
“My struggles seemed hard, but I have the power and ability to do what I needed to so. So, if you have the power and the ability, just do it,” he said.
As for what’s next, he said he’ll be working on college applications and hanging with family and friends.
He even has plans to reunite with his rescuers, one of whom is from Clovis, on the same trail he was stranded on. He said those plans are firmly set for the summer.