Dehydrated and lost hiker leads to rescue mission

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Photo courtesy Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office Office of Emergency Management
Representatives from Flight for Life and the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management pose with a rescued hiker who had gotten lost and had no water on the South Fork trail on Aug. 12. Rescue crews were able to find and rescue the hiker on Aug. 13 thanks to the hiker providing rescue crews with his coordinates.

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

A rescue mission was conducted by the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) on Aug. 12 for a lost hiker with no water on the West Fork Trail.

OEM personnel received the call for assistance at 5:24 p.m., according to OEM Deputy Director Christina Kraetsch.

“I called the subject, who surprisingly had cell service, to see if he could give me his coordinates off of his phone. After the coordinates were plotted, we noticed he was about 5.5 miles on the wrong trail,” Kraetsch wrote in an email to The SUN, noting that the subject was plotting near the West Fork trail instead.

According to Kraetsch, the lost hiker was in “disbelief” that he was that far from the West Fork Trail.

OEM decided to have Flight For Life do a flyover the next morning due to the time of day and the fact that he was in good health, she added later.

Around 8:35 a.m. the next morning, Flight For Life found the missing hiker on a cliff band where his phone coordinates plotted him, Kraetsch explained.

Medics were offloaded, who then began a mile-long hike to the hiker in steep and difficult terrain, she described.

Crews made contact with the lost hiker around 10 a.m. and the hiker was given water and had a patient assessment conducted on him, she described.

“Because the subject was weak and dehydrated, the hike to the helicopter was extremely slow for his safety,” she wrote, adding that it took about four and a half hours to hike to the helicopter.

The hiker was given IV fluids on the trail and was given more water at the helicopter and subsequently taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, and he was released later that day, she explained.

“The hiker had a phone with extra battery to charge and a National Geographic topo map. He was looking at his map and thought he was on the ‘right’ trail the whole time but ended up on a cliff [bank]. That’s when he decided to call for help. Luckily, he had service and plenty of battery. His phone knew where he was and that was a game changer for the rescue,” she wrote. “Having some sort of electronic mapping or app is a great resource as long as you have enough of a charge to use it. Also, if possible try to get higher (unless there are thunderstorms in the area) You will have a better chance of cell service plus its easier for rescue team to see you from the air.”