IRON COUNTY – An unprepared hiker who lost his way after the sun went down Friday was led to safety with the help of several first responder agencies, including Iron County Search and Rescue, Utah Highway Patrol, Iron County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Public Safety.
ICSD Sgt. Jeff Malcom said that a 25-year-old Utah man called Iron County dispatch at about 8:30 p.m. Friday and told dispatchers he was cold and lost on the Lion’s Mouth Trail in Dixie National Forest west of Cedar City.
Malcom said the hiker was alone, and wearing nothing but shorts and a T-shirt, which put him in danger of hypothermia making it an emergency situation. He said the deployment of a DPS helicopter with a high powered spotlight helped to find the lost excursionist quickly through the thick juniper and sage brush that covered the terrain.
The man was located on the trail, and Malcom said that UHP officers hiked up to lead him out to safety. He said the hiker had taken the trail earlier in the day, and had not planned on spending so much time at Lion’s Mouth Cave, so when the sun went down he was not prepared for the almost immediate temperature change that followed.
This time of year, people seem to not realize how extreme the temperature change can be in Southern Utah, he said. It can go from a nice warm day to freezing within minutes as the sun disappears over the horizon.
According to Weather.com the town of Pinto, which is only about 10 miles from the trailhead, went from a 68 degree high to a 33 degree low Friday.
Malcom said that with the time change, it is getting darker earlier and outdoor enthusiasts should make sure to be prepared for anything that might happen.
“Even if you’re planning on going out for a daytime hike make sure you’re prepared,” Malcom said. “Make sure you’re prepared so that even if that hike lasts an extra two hours, you can still self-sustain for at least 24 hours.”
In addition to layering clothing to ensure you have enough protection from the cold if the sun goes down earlier than expected, he said, it is also important to carry enough water to keep from getting dehydrated.
“Make sure you bring enough water, because – even with the temperature dropping right now – people are going out, but they’re not consuming the amount of water that they need,” he said. “So they still need to be drinking a lot of water, and also having the clothes.”
He said that hikers should consider that the sun is going down much earlier than usual with the time change recently, and remember that the days will continue to get shorter and shorter.
Another important piece of safety advice is to always communicate to someone where you plan to be, and when you expect to be home, Malcom said. The likelihood of being rescued when cell phone signal is unavailable to call for help is that much higher if someone knows to alert the authorities that someone has gone missing.
“It’s really just about being smart,” he said.
In this case, there were no extenuating circumstances, Malcom said, and once the hiker was examined, he was considered to be in unharmed condition and able to call loved ones.
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