Colorado Hiker Gets Lost in the Dark on ‘Steep and Loose Trail’

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by chapin31 via Getty Images)

On a cold September night in Colorado, Chaffee County Search and Rescue North received a call from a stranded hiker. According to the caller, he had been descending the mountain and accidentally went off route in the dark.

The hiker guessed that he was about 250 feet above Mount Princeton Trail but was unable to move any further. Not only was he surrounded by “steep and loose terrain” but his headlamp wasn’t strong enough to provide adequate light for a safe descent.

“He reported that he had gotten off route while descending from the saddle, and quickly became uncomfortable with the terrain,” rescuers explained in a social media post. “Additionally, his headlamp was not providing enough light for him to safely move any further.”

Using the 911 call from the hiker, the Chaffee County Search and Rescue crew was able to pinpoint his location by tracking his GPS coordinates.

A team of seven rescue workers was then dispatched to the location, and the hiker was told to wait for their arrival. As the outdoorsman correctly assessed, attempting to move any further on his own could result in serious injury, even death.

Colorado Rescue Team Locates and Recovers Lost Hiker

Though the rescue team had the hiker’s coordinates, the mission ahead was far from easy. The hiker was stranded at 12,600 feet elevation in a difficult area to reach. The “steep and loose” terrain surrounding him was just as hazardous to rescuers as it was to the hiker himself.

Due to the circumstances, the rescue crew embarked on foot, journeying up the trail toward the hiker. While the remaining six waited on the trail below, one field team member climbed the remaining 250 feet where he encountered the lost adventurer.

“After approximately 2 hours, one of our field team members was able to reach the subject’s position,” said Chaffee County Search and Rescue. “The subject was assisted down the very steep terrain back to the trail, where the rest of the field team was waiting.”

The rescuers first lent the hiker a stronger headlamp. They then helped him down the trail and into a warm SAR vehicle. Though the outdoorsman was mostly unharmed, he was freezing from the unexpected midnight hike.

“We’d like to remind people that even the most straightforward fourteeners can become significantly more difficult in the dark, especially without a good light,” rescuers warned. “Routefinding certainly becomes more difficult.”

“Also, temperatures are starting to drop overnight,” they continued. “Make sure you have your ten essentials, including enough layers to stay warm in case of an emergency.”

The ten essentials for hiking and camping include:

  • Navigation
  • Headlamp
  • Sun protection
  • First aid
  • Knife
  • Fire
  • Shelter
  • Extra food
  • Extra water
  • Extra clothes