2 lost hikers, 2 difficult rescues keep responders busy through the night

Utah Landscape at night, Stock Image, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Two reports of lost hikers several hours apart brought multiple search and rescue teams to remote locations with difficult terrain Saturday, with responders working through the night. Both hikers were found and brought back to safety.

Browns Point Trail, Utah | Image courtesy of Google Earth, St. George News
Browns Point Trail, Utah | Image courtesy of Google Earth, St. George News

Saturday’s first rescue was called into dispatch just after noon from a woman reporting she had become lost while hiking in the area of the Browns Point Trail, an 8-mile hike through Dixie National Forest located in the Pine Valley Mountain region.

Once the Washington County Search and Rescue team assembled and located the position of the hiker using GPS coordinates, Deputy Darrell Cashin determined that an air rescue may be necessary to expedite the rescue efforts.

Cashin requested the assistance of Intermountain Life Flight, and upon arrival, the flight crew attempted to fly the team to the lost hiker. However, the pilot was unable to find a safe landing site and was forced to turn around and return to the staging area.

The rescue team then made their way through steep inclines and rocky terrain, Cashin said, cutting through brush the entire way there.

The team reached the woman at approximately 9 p.m. Once she was hydrated and ready to make the trip, they brought her out of the canyon and back to the staging area, arriving just after 1 a.m. Sunday.

“It was a really rough canyon, with the hiker only a few miles away,” Cashin said, “but with the topography it took the team nearly 10 hours to make the round trip.”

During her hike in, the woman mistakenly hiked away from the trail, Cashin said, and she became lost. At that point, she started following a stream thinking it would lead her to safety, but instead it led her deeper into a canyon with rugged terrain.

“Generally it’s advised to follow the water,” Cashin said, “but in that particular area it led this hiker into the wrong canyon, which made the rescue much more difficult.”

Just under an hour before the first team reached the first reported lost hiker, a second rescue was initiated in the area of the Red Mountain Trail, located in the Red Mountain Wilderness east of Ivins.

Red Mountain Trail area in the Red Mountain Wilderness, east of Ivins where the hiker became lost and was rescued early Sunday morning, Washington County, Utah, Oct. 9, 2016 | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News
Red Mountain Trail area in the Red Mountain Wilderness, east of Ivins, where a hiker became lost and was rescued early Sunday morning, Oct. 9, 2016. Washington County, Utah, photo date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

A little after 8 p.m., a woman called in to report that her husband went on a hike earlier that morning.

A disclaimer on the Bureau of Land Management’s site referring to the Red Mountain Trail reads:

Search and rescue operations are not uncommon for hikers lost in this wilderness as distances are deceiving and many people go unprepared for the rugged conditions

When the man hadn’t returned or contacted his wife by the afternoon, she called in the report.

At that point, a second search and rescue team was paged. However, there were no GPS coordinates to assist the team during the search this time, and attempts to reach the hiker on his cellphone were unsuccessful.

Two of the rescuers went to the man’s truck, Cashin said, and found footprints with a distinctive diamond-shaped emblem in the center of the sole.

After confirming this identifying detail with the lost man’s wife, the team began “man tracking” the hiker, a search tool that rescuers use to track the person’s movements using clues left behind.

According to information from Imminent Threat Solutions, a training firm used by the U.S. Border Patrol, any time a person walks through an area in the wilderness, they leave evidence of their movements, whether it’s something that doesn’t belong, was moved, or no longer there. Footprints can provide information regarding gender, direction of travel and other important identifiers.

Members of the search and rescue team followed the tracks for several miles, until the hiker was located early Sunday morning. Despite being out in the cold all night, the hiker still had food, water, a jacket and a head lamp. He had his cellphone, but the battery had died the day before.

The team returned the man to his truck 11 hours after the rescue was initiated.

It was a long day for these guys,” Cashin said, “and the first rescue team came to assist in the second rescue.”

The deputy said the most important element to any rescue is that everyone returns safely, so in his mind the day was very successful.

He also commended the commitment demonstrated by both teams. Despite being given the option of calling off the search until daylight, rescuers elected to continue throughout the night.

The hikers who were rescued both came prepared, Cashin said, with food, plenty of water and even a head lamp in the case of one of the hikers. That is the most important lesson learned in every rescue, he said.

“We want people to enjoy the outdoors, but being prepared before setting out can mean the difference between life and death.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • Proud Rebel October 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    It seems to me like the average person would make sure their cell phone was charged completely prior to going out on a hike. I’m just happy that both of these folks were found safe, and returned to their families in good shape.
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; THANK GOD FOR OUR DEDICATED SAR PERSONNEL!

    • .... October 10, 2016 at 8:18 pm

      Praise the Lord ! those SAR people are the best there is. just glad everybody is home with their loved ones

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