GPS beacon leads searchers to exhausted hikers in Kane County

Within Buckskin Gulch, Kane County, Utah, March 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kane County Search and Rescue, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A group of exhausted hikers was retrieved by search and rescue personnel in Kane County Tuesday morning after spending the night in Buckskin Gulch.

Kane County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge, who also acts as the county’s emergency manager, said he received a call from the Utah Department of Emergency Management Monday night concerning a signal coming in from a GPS locator beacon originating somewhere in the region.

The area of Buckskin Gulch, Kane County, Utah, March 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kane County Search and Rescue, St. George News

Various sets of coordinates were relayed from the company that monitored the GPS beacon to Kane County Search and Rescue personnel to investigate. The coordinates updated every 30 minutes and were initially scattered across the area, Alldredge said.

As the coordinates zeroed in on a tighter location, they put the origin of the beacon in the area of Buckskin Gulch.

“Normal conditions to expect in Buckskin Gulch include strenuous hiking, negotiating obstacles that require 40 (feet) of rope, and wading (and) swimming in very cold pools of water. Sunlight reaches these pools very rarely making for frigid temperatures,” Kane County Search and Rescue posted on its Facebook page.

As the potential for flash flooding is also high within the gulch, it should never be hiked when rain has been in the forecast.

Rescue operations out of the gulch can also be “extremely difficult,” the Kane County Search and Rescue team wrote. This is due to there being only thee access points into the gulch for 21 miles of between the entry and exit point.

Parts of the gulch reach depths of 500 feet and are not very wide, Alldredge said, which ultimately helped narrow down the search area. GPS beacons shouldn’t be able to work in these kind of areas, which led searchers to search spots where the gulch is known to be wider.

The emergency GPS locator beacon that led search and rescue personnel to the hikers in Buckskin Gulch, Kane County, Utah, March 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Kane County Search and Rescue, St. George News

“For them to actually get a signal out, they must have been in a wide spot,” Alldredge said.

During the search, Alldredge contacted Classic Air, a medical helicopter service based in Page, Arizona, for help. They were given coordinates that turned out to be dead end, then were sent to part of the gulch where a beacon would most likely work.

“We made audible contact with the group around 1 a.m.,” Alldredge said, referring to how searchers had yelled into the gulch to find the hikers.

The group consisted of nine people, including an 11-year-old child and three dogs, and had been hiking the area when conditions became too much for them to handle, Alldredge said.

“This group was smart enough to stop, dry off, warm up, eat, and rehydrate when mild hypothermia started setting in,” the Facebook post reads.

They had planned to hike from the Wire Pass Trailhead to Lee’s Ferry, a distance of around 40 miles, Alldredge said.

The group ended up spending the night in the gulch and was retrieved Tuesday around 7 a.m.

“This was one of the easier rescues,” Kane County Search and Rescue wrote, “(it’s) being categorized as a hiker assist instead.”

All of the hikers came out of the situation healthy and safe, Alldredge said.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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