SAR team performs 2nd Red Mountain Trail rescue in 2 weeks

Washington County Search and Rescue volunteers brave rough terrain to rescue a lost hiker near Dammeron Valley, Utah, Feb. 7, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George, Utah

DAMMERON VALLEY – The Washington County Search and Rescue team continued its very busy new year Saturday when volunteer responders were called out to rescue a lost hiker on the Red Mountain Trail.

Search and rescue responders rescue a lost hiker on the Red Mountain Trail near Dammeron Valley, Utah, Feb. 7, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News
Search and rescue responders rescue a lost hiker on the Red Mountain Trail near Dammeron Valley, Utah, Feb. 7, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News | Click on photo to enlarge

At about 4 p.m. Saturday, a man in his early 60s was hiking on the Red Mountain Trail, between Ivins and Dammeron Valley, when he became lost. He called 911 for help, and dispatchers were able to obtain GPS coordinates from his cellphone to pinpoint the area he was in.

The hiker had entered the Red Mountain Trail on the Ivins side with the intention of hiking to the Gunsight Trail, Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Cashin said.

“He hiked up from the Ivins side and obviously got lost on the trail, and he couldn’t find his way down,” Cashin said.

The Red Mountain Trail has been a trouble spot for the search and rescue team. Though the trail remains on some locally distributed maps, it is a rough wilderness area and is not a marked or improved trail, and many people become lost or trapped while attempting to hike there.

The Red Mountain Trail has been removed from BLM and state park maps, Rescue Commander Mike Thomas told St. George News in a previous interview, but at least one local facility continues selling maps with the trail marked on it. The search and rescue team has been working to have the trail removed from that agency’s maps, to prevent others not familiar with the Red Mountain Trail from becoming lost or stranded there, but at the present time maps marking the trail are still being sold there.

We get called (to the Red Mountain Trail) a whole lot,” Cashin said.

Four hikers who bought a map from that facility were ledged up – unable to climb down from where they were – on the Red Mountain Trail on Jan. 26 and had to be rescued by the SAR team. The man who became lost Saturday also bought his map from that same location, Cashin said.

Saturday’s lost hiker had the presence of mind to call for help as soon as he realized his predicament, Cashin said, which helped rescuers in their search because they had a couple of hours of daylight to work with.

“It took a long time, and that trail is rough,” Cashin said.

Twelve search and rescue volunteers commenced their search for the hiker on ATVs, entering the Red Mountain Trail on the Dammeron Valley side. Rescuers rode through the rough terrain as far as they could go and then ended up hiking the last half-mile in order to reach the man. The rescue mission took about four hours total, Cashin said, and the volunteers were tired and sore by the time they got back.

Search and rescue responders rescue a lost hiker on the Red Mountain Trail near Dammeron Valley, Utah, Feb. 7, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News
Search and rescue responders rescue a lost hiker on the Red Mountain Trail near Dammeron Valley, Utah, Feb. 7, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Search and Rescue, St. George News | Click on photo to enlarge

At one point, the lost hiker placed a second called to dispatch because he was starting to get cold, Cashin said. The dispatcher was able to re-ping his location and get more precise GPS coordinates to help the SAR team find him.

The team was  finally able to reach the man and bring him safely out.

Just over a month into 2015, the search and rescue team has already been called out on about 12 rescue missions, Cashin said. In 2014, the team received 53 total calls and went out on 44 searches. If the accelerated rate of rescues continues this year, he said, the team is set to more than double 2014’s rescue numbers.

Cashin said the unseasonably warm weather may have something to do with the spike in rescue calls.

“It’s unusually warm, so it brings people out,” he said. “But it still gets dark early, so once that sun goes down, they’re cold and their calling.”

Operating under the direction of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Search and Rescue team is comprised of unpaid volunteers who use their own equipment to assist in rescue missions. The only compensation team members receive is the gratitude of rescued individuals and their loved ones when a mission is successfully completed.

“We don’t mind going out helping people. That’s why we’re here,” Cashin said.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Email: cjim@stgnews.com

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6 Comments

  • anybody home February 8, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Is there some way to retrieve the incorrect maps? Seems truly irresponsible to allow them to be used when they’re known to be wrong and likely to put hikers in danger. Or will it take a fatality before some action is taken?

    At the very least, signs should be posted at the trailhead to warn that the maps are not correct and to give accurate information. This is not rocket science.

  • Bender February 8, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Nothing wrong with the maps. Ill prepared hikers with poor judgement are the problem. On most local trails you can get away with being stupid. Red Mountain, is different. Red Mountain is a somewhat inaccessible wilderness nestled in close to suburbia. Easy to let your guard down and get caught short. Once on top it’s hard to figure out where you are and there are only a few places to descend safely. Every local ward has a story about the time the scouts got stuck on Red Mountain. What’s surprising is that there are not more tragedies up there.

  • Dave February 8, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    That Red Cliffs Desert Reserve map has the Gunsight route marked completely wrong. It needs to be changed or taken off the market–it has caused multiple rescues over the dozen years since it’s been in print. However, hikers also need to be more experienced and better equipped before they attempt any of the Red Mountain trails. They can be very intimidating and disorienting.

    Why did SAR drive ATVs in the wilderness all the way to the south end of Red Mountain, because it’s much quicker to hike up to that part of the mountain??

  • anybody home February 8, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    “Though the trail remains on some locally distributed maps, it is a rough wilderness area and is not a marked or improved trail, and many people become lost or trapped while attempting to hike there.

    The Red Mountain Trail has been removed from BLM and state park maps, Rescue Commander Mike Thomas told St. George News in a previous interview, but at least one local facility continues selling maps with the trail marked on it. ”

    Get the facility to stop selling the maps and put up a sign at the trailhead. It’s a simple solution. Who can see which hikers are ill-prepared. And setting out on a trail that’s on a map is not stupid. If Scouts are frequently stuck on Red Mountain, this is just irresponsible local chauvinism – “oh, those dumb people who don’t know how to hike the trails.” There’s nothing to be proud of in that.

    • Bender February 9, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Better yet, how about GPS ankle bracelets for all locals hikers ANYBODY HOME? Perhaps you could volunteer at the trail heads; confiscating those devil maps? There are plenty of places to kill yourself in Washington County, so you might be spread thin once you start supervising all the hiking in the county.

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