LAKE COUNTY, Colo. — Search and rescue officials issued a recent public service announcement, of sorts, after an overdue hiker ignored repeated phone calls from an unrecognized number while lost on Colorado’s highest peak.
“If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a (search and rescue) team trying to confirm you’re safe!” Lake County Search and Rescue urged in a post on its official Facebook page.
According to the agency, the hiker began their ascent of Mount Elbert from the South Trailhead at around 9 a.m. on Oct. 18, but had not returned by 8 p.m. Repeated attempts to reach the hiker by cellphone went unheeded, prompting the 10 p.m. dispatch of a five-member team who scoured the area unsuccessfully for five hours.
The following morning, a three-member team searched for the missing hiker for two-and-a-half hours before learning that the individual had returned to their accommodations, the agency stated.
“The subject stated they’d lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching for the trail, and once on the trail, bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead, finally reaching their car the next morning, approximately 24 hours after they’d started their hike. They had no idea that SAR was out looking for them,” according to the Facebook post.
According to the Idaho Statesman, Mount Elbert, the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains, is 14,440 feet in elevation and most of its trails are covered in snow most of the year.
“Please don’t count on following your ascent tracks to descend the mountain, as wind will often cover your tracks,” rescuers stated in their direct plea to the summit’s hikers.
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