Utah Man Dies After Falling More Than 200 Feet While Hiking

by Matthew Memrick

A 26-year-old man died while hiking a challenging trail in Utah on Sunday.

KUTV reported that Andrew Acuff reportedly fell 200 feet after leaving a group of hikers in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

A group crossing the Cottonwood Ridge Traverse came across the body of the hiker near Dromedary Peak.

“This trail is becoming increasingly popular, and the reality is it’s an incredibly dangerous trail which requires a very skilled hiker,” Unified Police Sgt. Melody Cutler told the Deseret News. “When we talk about highly skilled, we’re not just talking about good physical condition. We’re talking about having really technical hiking skills in order to complete this.”

According to the newspaper, climbing deaths across Utah and the West have surged. During one 13-day stretch in Utah this spring, seven accidents and two fatalities occurred. In the same area as Sunday’s fatality, a loose boulder severely injured one climber.  

According to the friends, the man was hiking on the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup or Wasatch-Uintah Ridgeline Trail. Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake officials said the trail is 32.2 miles long, and the area is extremely steep and rocky.

The route crosses five summits over 11,000 feet and divides Big and Little Cottonwood canyons.

According to Alltrails.com, the mountaineering route requires special gear and rock climbing knowledge. It warns those who have not trained for the hike and being in shape is not enough for the strenuous trek.

On the website, one hiker commented on the hike, saying, “If you have food cashes and have trained LOTS and hiked all-terrain beforehand, then you can consider doing this hike. If you backpacked it over multiple days, it would be much easier for those not up for hiking 30+ hours without sleep.”

Another AllTrails commenter issued another warning. Many urged people not to do the trail without lots of preparation.

“This should not be on All Trails,” McKenna Gunderson said. “People who complete the WURL train for months, have crews supporting them, caches of food stashed, and even the best endurance athletes don’t finish this route sometimes. Lots of scrambling on knife-edge ridges and for someone who’s even in decent shape, this would take you 35+ hours. This is a *know before you go* type of warning.”

Hiker’s Fatal Morning

Friends said Acuff was planning to meet with his friends. The last time they spoke with him was 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Experts also warn people to stay in groups and not go hiking alone.

KUTV reported that a separate hiking group found Acuff and called the police.

The area was so treacherous, a helicopter had to fly into the area. Search and rescue hikers then were able to transport his remains back.

According to the television station, Sunday’s accident was the second time search and rescue crews had come to the area in September.