A Long Night

Nancy Green


KUED Producer, Nancy Green, specializes in the production of documentaries for local, regional, and national PBS broadcast. Her work at KUED spans nearly 25 years, focusing on diverse topics, including healthcare, the arts, history, and the outdoors. Recent, films include, Homeless at the End, Search & Rescue, The Utah Bucket List, Maynard...Read more

Cars whiz by unaware of a rescue happening up above.

It was a long night for Kim and her friend Amy. The two Salt Lake City women decided to hike up Lone Peak. Parking at the Orson Smith trailhead, they started along the Bear Canyon trail for the strenuous hike to the 11,253 ft. summit. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, with a breeze — perfect hiking weather. They did everything right. They had lots of water, extra clothing, and they got a 6:30 a.m. start. But the Lone Peak Wilderness area can be difficult to navigate. The route is fairly obvious heading up, but the way back down can be confusing, especially after a full day of hiking. The two women took a wrong turn and ended up getting lost in the maze of granite cliffs near the summit. They soon realized they were in trouble — lost, exhausted, and running out of water, they called for help.

The text came at 5:48 p.m. "SAR, respond to the Suncrest Ridge church in Draper for 2 lost hikers." The church is a staging area for rescuers to meet. ATVs and Side by Sides were hauled in to cut down the hiking time. For the Utah County Search and Rescue Team, this was a familiar exercise. Each year they get several calls at that location for lost or cliffed-out hikers. An airplane and a helicopter were brought in to try and spot the hikers. It took a while to spot the women. Finding people in a ravine or gully can be difficult. Having a small signaling mirror can help, but few people hike with one. Finally, the women were located. Now it was just a race to reach them before night fell.

Utah County Search and Rescue volunteers Bruce Riddle and Paul Byrd prepare to fly to the top of Lone Peak. 

A Life Flight helicopter aided in the search, but with high altitude, strong winds, and sheer cliffs, there was no way it could reach Kim or Amy. The copter crew returned to the church to pick up two rescuers to take them near the summit so they could work their way down toward the women. It was dark by the time crews reached them. They were cold, tired, and dehydrated. The rescuers made sure the women had water and some warm food, and then led them back down the mountain.

According to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, this story is not unique. The region gets more than its share of calls. The rugged terrain makes it easy to get off the trail. Simple actions, like marking the trail with a cairn, a small pile of rocks, on your ascent, or periodically turning around and looking for landmarks to spot on your way down can help. But the reality is that even experienced hikers run into trouble coming down Lone Peak. And anytime SAR gets a call in that area, they know it's going to be a long night.

Valley view from Lone Peak.  Near where the hikers lost their way.

Kim and Amy called for help as soon as they knew they were in trouble, and that's a good thing. Too many people wait 'til it's dark to call in crews. But even with the early start, it was nearly 2 a.m. by the time the women made it down. It was a long miserable night, but at least no one got hurt. The women went on their way. The volunteer rescue crew quickly packed up their gear and hit the road to salvage a few hours of sleep before they had to head to their day jobs.

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