SAR Journal: Lost hikers and a broken leg

I stepped out of my yoga class yesterday, just before lunchtime, to find that I’d missed a page. Two hikers had been reported overdue and interestingly (at least to me), they were right in the very same area I hiked last weekend.

I jumped into the second truck out and we drove to the trailhead (an hour and a half of twisty mountain roads). The plane was already up and circling the area and Alpha ground team was 20 minutes ahead. Minutes after we strapped on our backpacks, Alpha called in to report that they’d made contact. Both hikers were fine and everything was okay.

Before we even had time to take our packs off, Command called on the radio and sent us to a new location, this one an hour away. A female subject had fallen and broken her leg. Command was sending a chopper in but we went out anyway, as helicopters don’t always make it to the scene.


We drove the truck in as far as we could, then hiked the rest of the way, beating the helicopter there by just a few minutes. It was forced to land on a ridge above the patient, so we loaded her into the litter and carried her up there. Things went smoothly and she was soon on her way to the hospital. Shortly afterwards, Alpha arrived on the scene and was able to assist with carrying down the gear.

A good day that ended with everybody safe!

What We Can Learn From This
The hikers were late because they’d gotten lost. However, they had people who knew their plan and were able to call for help when they didn’t show up.

Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

They were well-equipped and had plenty of food and thus could survive an unpredicted night out.

Always carry a little extra food with you.

I don’t know exactly how these hikers got lost, but their experience shows that trails can be confusing. Junctions can be easy to miss and not all trails are well-signed (especially around here).

Always carry a map and compass and know how to use them.

The injured woman did nothing wrong–her experience reminds us that an accident can happen to anyone. What would you do if you broke your leg in the backcountry? Do you have a way to stay warm until we can reach you? Lying on the ground for hours will make you cold, especially if you lie there into the night. Always carry an extra layer of clothing and consider buying an inexpensive bivvy sack for day-hiking. They’re small and light and tuck away into your daypack until you need them.

Stay safe out there!


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