ST. GEORGE – A group of lost hikers who spent a cold and windy night on Canaan Mountain near Hildale were found safe after alerting a Life Flight helicopter to their location.
A group of four individuals, two from Southern Utah and the other two from Minnesota and South Dakota, had planned a day hike that started in Eagle Crack with the ultimate goal of making it to Water Canyon via Canaan Mountain, Washington County Search and Rescue Liaison Darrell Cashin said.
“(They) apparently got lost, went off the trail,” Cashin said, adding that the four texted a friend who lived back East that they might be lost, only later to confirm they were “really lost.” They were unable to call due to reception issues.
The friend back East contacted a friend in Southern Utah, and in a rather round about way, contacted the St. George Communications Center about the lost hikers.
Dispatch tried to get a GPS location on the hikers, but it wasn’t easy. The hikers had drained the power on their cell phones, yet had one they were able to use to send out text messages periodically.
Meanwhile, the Washington County Search and Rescue crews had no idea where the hikers were, only that they were stuck somewhere on the mountain.
Preparations were made to send in a ground and air search, Cashin said, but due to the windstorm that hit the region Sunday night, those plans had to be tabled.
“That storm came in and we made a decision that at night, during that storm and wind, it would be virtually impossible to find them and we would be risking our rescuers to do so,” Cashin said.
Just before 3 a.m., dispatch was able to contact the hikers through a text and was able to get GPS coordinates to their general location.
“They said they were very, very cold,” Cashin said. “They were continuing to move around to stay warm, but they didn’t know if they could make it to 7 or 8 a.m.”
Cashin contacted Intermountain Healthcare’s Life Flight crew at Dixie Regional Medical Center to see if they could fly over and look for the hikers. As the winds had died down, the helicopter was on its way.
The hikers heard the helicopter overhead when it approached their location and they were able to signal it with a light of some sort, Cashin said.
It took two trips, but the Life Flight crew was able to get the hikers off the mountain and took them to Hildale where an ambulance crew was waiting to tend to the hikers.
“They spent the night on the mountain out there,” Cashin said. “They said it snowed on them (and) they were freezing cold, but they were glad to be off the mountain.”
While the hikers each had a case of mild hypothermia, they didn’t require a trip to the hospital for further examination.
“Life Flight was so great to go find them and get them off the mountain,” Cashin said, adding he was grateful to be able to call on Life Flight when needed.
The county’s search and rescue resources were split early Monday morning after being asked to help locate a missing 2-year-old girl. She had gone missing in the middle of the night, yet was subsequently found safe a few hours later.
Combined with the Canaan Mountain operation, it is the seventh time Washington County Search and Rescue teams have been sent out in the last two weeks, Cashin said.
The marathon of rescues started with the search and eventual locating of two missing Washington City teens who got lost during an afternoon hunting trip. They were found safe and returned home.
Other instances since then have included a woman involved in a rappelling accident, and two separate incidents involved the rescue of individuals who become lost in parts of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.
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