Early on Tuesday, Phil Harvey and his wife gathered a group of mountain rescuers and camera crews at the Tan Hill Inn pub in northeast England to make a public plea for help finding Phil’s 80-year-old father, who had gone missing while hiking in the nearby Yorkshire Dales.
But the event quickly turned into a tearful reunion when the missing man himself, Harry Harvey, showed up at a news conference about his disappearance. Harvey said he had no idea that a search party had spent four days looking for him.
“If I’d have known, I wouldn’t have come back — not here,” he said, jokingly, at the news conference, which was broadcast by the inn on Facebook Live, adding that he would have found another way to get home so he could have avoided all the attention. “I could do without all of this.”
Rescuers credited Harvey’s years of mountain hiking experience and good equipment for seeing him safely through the four days.
“This morning, we did not expect to have this result. We really thought we were looking for an unfortunate end to this matter,” a member of the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team told ITV.
Harvey was separated from his walking partner Saturday afternoon after getting caught in a hailstorm with a “howling gale of wind,” he said, while hiking in the national park, which is 860 square miles of countryside with lush valleys, a limestone cave and historic castles.
But armed with a bag packed with gear, and given his extensive training and experience, Harvey said he “was never worried.”
As the darkness settled in, Harvey turned to his “Plan B,” he said. The spot where he had gotten separated from his partner was desolate, so he looked for a new, safe place to set up camp.
He’d end up solo camping for three nights and four days — an overall nice experience, he said after his rescue, though he did fall in a stream and scrape his forehead.
“I had three really good, wild camping nights where I was on my own and had all the kit I needed,” Harvey said in the news conference. His only issue was a shortage of food. “I’ve got a hell of an appetite,” he said, smiling. “And when I get hungry I’ve got to get something to eat or I cannot go anywhere.”
Meanwhile, mountain rescuers, police, the Royal Air Force, and locals had been searching for Harvey since Sunday. The group included 60 trained search-and-rescue volunteers and seven search-and-rescue dog handlers, ITV reported.
Harvey said he saw helicopters and a few people walking in the distance, but didn’t realize they were part of a search team looking for him. He said he blew his emergency whistle, but the people apparently didn’t hear it.
On Tuesday morning, Harvey spotted a woman in the park and waved for help. Annette Pyrah, a wildlife photographer, said she was out taking photographs of birds, but instead, “I found Harry,” she told the BBC.
“I had passed Tan Hill with a very heavy heart because I knew he hadn’t been found and I thought after three days he’s not going to be found. It was quite upsetting to see the police and sniffer dogs,” she said.
But when she saw the man waving, she got out of her car and asked if he was Harry Harvey and if he had been missing for three days.
“He said yes, and I started crying,” Pyrah said.
Pyrah then called for help and a team of mountain rescuers arrived and patched up Harvey’s forehead.
The team then brought Harvey to the Tan Hill Inn, where his son and daughter-in-law were waiting. As Harvey exited the car, the three embraced in the rain, before heading inside.
Given Harvey’s age, the number of days he had been missing and the weather, members of the search-and-rescue team were not optimistic that they’d find Harvey alive and well.
“It was a pleasure when we found him,” one rescuer told ITV.
Despite finding his father relatively unscathed and healthy, Harvey’s son Phil said that the past few days had been “torture.”
“We know he is experienced, but not three nights, that’s taking it a little bit to the extreme,” he said at the news conference.
But Phil and his wife couldn’t help but find the humor in the fact that Harvey had a pleasant time during those four days off the grid.
“He’s had a blast and we’ve had a nightmare,” Harvey’s daughter-in-law said.
“He’s grounded,” Phil said of his dad. “You’re not going anywhere now.”