Stranded hiker rescued from ledge on Pine Valley Mountain

Stock image | St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY — A dehydrated and exhausted hiker was rescued from a ledge 400 feet below the top of a cliff in a rescue operation that began Monday evening and ended more than 12 hours later when the hiker was flown to safety.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Washington County Search and Rescue was called out to rescue the hiker stranded on Pine Valley Mountain near the Oak Grove Trail near Leeds, Washington County Search and Rescue Liaison Darrell Cashin said.

The 66-year-old hiker was visiting from New Mexico and nine hours into the hike texted his brother telling him that he was stuck on a ledge, lost and out of water.

The hiker’s brother immediately called 911 and reported the incident, and shortly thereafter the hiker himself called 911 upon the request of the St. George Communications Center.

Green arrow shows approximate location of where a 66-year-old hiker was rescued from, trapped on a ledge on Pine Valley Mountain, Washington County, Utah, Sep. 4, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Darrell Cashin, St. George News

“Dispatch needed the hiker to call in as well, so that they could ping his cell phone to get the GPS coordinates showing his location, and that information was then relayed to us,”  Cashin said.

As it turned out the man started the hike at 10 a.m. Monday, and several hours into the hike became lost when he left the Oak Grove Trail.

While attempting to find his way back, he became more disoriented and hiked away from the trail, the Cashin said, finally ending up on a ledge several canyons from where he started.

High-angle and ground teams made their way to the area, a journey that took several hours on foot through rocky, steep terrain.

An Intermountain Life Flight helicopter landed at the staging area in Leeds to pick up two high-angle rescuers and take them to the top of Pine Valley Mountain. They determined the hiker’s approximate location and set up for a rope rescue.

Using two ropes to extend the distance, the rescuers rappelled 400 feet down, and hiked to where the man was located.

The hiker was found at 11:30 p.m. perched on a ledge, miles from the Oak Grove Trail to the southeast, Cashin said.

“The man was more than 400 feet below the edge of the mountain” Cashin said, “and it was hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet from the ledge to the bottom with multiple drop offs and straight cliffs.”

As the rest of the team arrived, rescuers found the man to be slightly dehydrated and suffering from extreme exhaustion, as he had gone without water or food for more than 13 hours.

The hiker’s condition, steep terrain and distance from the ledge to the bottom prevented him from hiking down the mountain, so the team decided it was safer for the group to return to the top. He was then placed in a harness and guided along as the group hiked back to the top.

They continued hiking to Furtherwater, a meadow near the Oak Grove Trail, where the Life Flight helicopter was waiting. The man was checked by the emergency medical flight crew and later flown to the staging area in Leeds. He was driven to his vehicle and was able to return to his brother’s house on his own.

“He declined to be transported to the hospital, and while he was exhausted and still dehydrated he just wanted to get to his vehicle so he could return to his brother’s house where he was staying,” Cashin said.

The 12-hour rescue operation ended just after 7:30 a.m., Cashin said, and was the result of multiple search and rescue volunteers along with Intermountain’s Life Flight’s helicopter and crew.

“Many of our guys left here and went straight into work after they were up all night assisting in a difficult rescue,” Cashin said, “and I’m very proud of them.

The search and rescue team is comprised of 60 volunteers who work with a mix of their own personal equipment and items and materials supplied through the Sheriff’s Office.

“Intermountain Healthcare donated the use of the helicopter, equipment and the flight crew’s time to assist in this rescue, shaving so much time off of the time it took for team members to reach that man,” Cashin said.

Intermountain Healthcare’s commitment to rescue is built into the licensure as an emergency medical provider, so both helicopter and fixed-wing rescue efforts are included in that commitment, said Terri Draper, Intermountain Healthcare’s southwest region communications director for Dixie Regional Medical Center.

“We made a commitment to participate fully in emergency rescue in Utah, and it’s part of the agreement that we made with the state and part of our mission as a not-for-profit hospital: to help where needed,” she said. “We take emergency medicine very seriously, and the individuals involved in the Life Flight program are outstanding, they are exceptional people who are committed to doing whatever it takes to save a life.”

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.



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