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Hikers advised to be prepared after increase of search and rescue calls

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Jul 23rd, 2013 @ 6:22pm

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AMERICAN FORK — Search and rescue crews in Utah have been inundated with calls. In many cases, experts say the people who received help could have done more to help themselves in the first place.

"Prepare yourself for what you're going to do — don't take the risk," said Utah County Sheriff's Lt. Tom Hodgson.

Crews in Utah County have been called out 49 times in 50 days, though a number of the calls were for medical issues like broken ankles, Hodgson said.

More significant search and rescue operations have surfaced recently in other counties as well. Since last Thursday, Summit County crews have had to assist 6 people in 4 different rescues. In Cache County Monday, a father and his two sons were flown out of an area in the Wellsville Mountains. The stranded hikers were out of drinking water when rescuers reached them.

Hydration issues, rescuers said, have been common in numerous rescues this summer.

While the official cause of death remains under investigation, crews said it appeared a woman who died Monday while hiking to "The Wave" in Kane County was suffering from heat-related symptoms after getting lost for several hours along the trail.

"A lot of people, they leave dehydrated as they start the hike, and that just accelerates the situation," hiking expert Adam Provance said, speaking about hiking mishaps in general.

Provance recommended people fully hydrate themselves one to two days before a hike, and that they take plenty of water on outdoor adventures.

Provance said he keeps a container that holds three liters with him all the time. "It molds right to your back so it's comfortable," he said.

A lot of people, they leave dehydrated as they start the hike, and that just accelerates the situation.

–Adam Provance

Provance said he also carries around water purification tools in case he has to draw from river water. Moving water, he said, is a better natural water source than standing water.

Even if it seems cool outside, Provance said, someone still can suffer from dehydration and heat exhaustion, which can take place even along seemingly easy terrain.

"If you find that you or someone in your hiking party is suffering from a headache or is dizzy or has started to feel nauseous, stop immediately and try to find some shade, fully hydrate that person and don't continue until their headache is gone," Provance said. "Better yet, I'd probably just send them back down the mountain and just go after it on another day."

Additionally, Provance recommended thoroughly researching hiking trails before starting out. He said he researches trails five or six times to know how long it takes to actually complete the hike.

"The majority of people — it's just a spur of the moment thing, and they hop in the car and they hear something, they want to go. That's where the problems arise," Provance said.

Hodgson urged caution when taking shortcuts and leaving known trails.

"That's when they find themselves in trouble and search and rescue being called out," Hogdson said.

Hodgson said sometimes people treat a hike more like a "walk," and that can also end in a rescue operation.

"They talk to some people who say it might take six to eight hours to do this hike, when in fact they're not in shape to do that hike," Hodgson said. "It might take them 12 to 14 hours, they find themselves in the dark, and now they're lost because they have no flashlights."


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