Falls in Snow Canyon, Red Mountain prompt rescues involving long treks on foot and ATV

Washington County Sheriff's Search and Rescue teams carry an injured hiker more than a mile to an awaiting ambulance in Snow Canyon State Park, Washington County, Utah, March 28, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two recent rescues in popular hiking destinations in Washington County may be the precursor to a potentially busy season for search and rescue teams as temperatures begin to rise.

Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams carry an injured hiker out of Snow Canyon State Park, Washington County, Utah, March 28, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News

At 10:45 a.m. Saturday, emergency personnel were dispatched to the Red Mountain trail area off state Route 18 near Dammeron Valley on a reported fall involving a hiker who suffered a facial injury, Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Darrell Cashin said.

Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams were also called in to assist due to the remoteness of the area, which is covered by rugged terrain and lies several miles northwest of St. George.

Rescue teams, Dammeron Valley firefighters and Gold Cross paramedics made their way to the hiker, who had an injury to her nose and was experiencing “controlled bleeding,” Cashin said.

The woman was assessed at the scene and then driven to the trailhead on an all-terrain vehicle before being loaded into an awaiting ambulance and transported to the hospital for treatment.

In a similar incident Thursday, rescuers were dispatched to a report of a fall that left a man injured near the petrified sand dunes in Snow Canyon State Park shortly after noon, said Cashin, who serves as liaison for Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue.

Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams carry an injured hiker more than a mile to an awaiting ambulance in Snow Canyon State Park, Washington County, Utah, March 28, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News

Rescue teams arrived and were able to locate the injured hiker in a remote area. He had a fractured or dislocated ankle, or possibly both, Cashin said.

“The only way to really know for certain if a bone is fractured or even dislocated is typically with an X-ray,” Cashin said.

Either way, those types of injuries are treated as a fracture until “we know differently,” he said, to prevent further injury that can occur during the rescue process.

The man had fallen or slid down some sandstone for approximately 15 feet before landing on a ledge that was nearly 80 feet above the base of the canyon, Cashin said, explaining that he caught his leg or foot on something on the way down.

With the hiker injured and in need of medical treatment, Cashin said time was of the essence and the team soon realized the man would need to be lowered to a landing where the ambulance was staged near West Canyon Road.

They also realized that rope lines measuring 30- and 80-feet would need to be set up, which would have required additional time they didn’t have in that situation.

“It would have taken them three times as long to set up all of that,” Cashin said.

Instead, the teams chose to load the patient into a Stokes basket and carry him out of the canyon by foot for a distance of more than a mile. After reaching the staging area, the hiker was loaded onto an ambulance and transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center for evaluation and treatment.

“They had the manpower on that rescue which allowed them to work in tandem, with each taking turns carrying the basket, making the mile-long journey possible,” Cashin explained.

Preparation can be difference between life and death

Both Thursday’s and Saturday’s rescues ended positively, but that is not always the case, Cashin said.

The best way to avoid tragedy is to be prepared, he said, which also means being equipped and aware of steps people can take to help themselves if they are lost, injured or in distress.

“Being prepared for the unexpected can save your life,” Cashin said.

Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams carry an injured hiker out of Snow Canyon State Park, Washington County, Utah, March 28, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News

On added danger currently facing hikers in Southern Utah involves the above-average rainfall the area has experienced. Rocks can become brittle due to the added moisture that freezes and then thaws multiple times over a certain period, Cashin explained. Saturated sandstone can crack or break, which may cause hikers to lose their footing.

Spring and summer bring an increase in the number of rescues reported, Cashin said, adding that as temperatures rise, so do the number of deaths and injuries — often from heatstroke, dehydration or when a hiker gets lost and can’t be found in time for lifesaving measures to be administered.

On average, half of the search and rescue calls during June, July and August — the hottest months in Southern Utah — are due to dehydration involving hikers getting lost or wandering off.

Preparing for outdoor recreation in Southern Utah

Taking the following steps can increase safety and reduce the risk of becoming lost or injured while enjoying the outdoors.

Hydration

  • Humans do not store water; what goes out in 24 hours must be replaced.
  • Fluid losses increase as the body sweats.
  • Signs of dehydration: fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, dark yellow urine (if it’s the color of apple juice, drink more water; if it’s the color of lemonade, you’re usually OK), increased heart rate, skin loses elasticity, overheating, muscle cramps, constipation, loss of tears, parched throat and lips.
  • Take plenty of water.
  • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty; thirst is an indicator that you are already behind on fluids.
  • Hydrate and rehydrate before, during and after activity.

Heat exhaustion

  • Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke.
  • Heat exhaustion includes two types: water depletion and salt depletion.
    • Water depletion is indicated by extreme thirst, weakness, fainting and headache.
    • Salt depletion is indicated by nausea, vomiting, dizziness and muscle cramps.
  • If the symptoms are not addressed swiftly, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.

Heatstroke

  • Heatstroke is a medical emergency and can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.
  • The body often progresses from dehydration to heat exhaustion and eventually to heatstroke.
  • Symptoms include: throbbing headache; dizziness and light-headedness; lack of sweating despite the heat; red, hot and dry skin; muscle weakness or cramps; nausea and vomiting; rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak; rapid, shallow breathing; behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation or staggering; seizures; and unconsciousness.
  • If you suspect someone is experiencing the symptoms of heatstroke, call 911 immediately.
  • If possible, cool the individual with ice packs or water, and administer first aid.

Prepare to be found 

  • Learn to read maps and how to wayfind, a method of spatial problem solving, using landmarks.
  • Load up on fuel foods days in advance of a hike.
  • Leave an itinerary with relatives or friends.
  • Be aware of limitations, health conditions, abilities, and body’s reaction to extreme heat and other weather conditions.
  • Wear bright clothing that can be easily spotted.
  • Always have a light source when hiking.
  • Carry a small mirror or anything that will reflect a glint that can catch a helicopter pilot’s eye.
  • Don’t rely on a cellphone; many areas may not have reception, and cellphones can fail in the heat.
  • Carry a GPS tracking device which may work where cellphones won’t.

 

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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