Trail runner rescued after fall in American Fork Canyon

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AMERICAN FORK — A trail runner fell and injured himself while descending from the summit of Box Elder Peak Sunday night but was able to summon help by texting his ex-wife.

Ben Christensen said he set out on his run earlier Sunday with plenty of time to make it down before dark. He was supposed to see his children.

Rather than go back down the mountain the way he went up, though, he said he instead went along a different route to the south he had not taken before that appeared to have less snow and was sunnier.

“After a mile, mile-and-a-half, the trail got into the shade and got super snowy and wasn’t tracked out at all like the other trail was, so I was constantly losing the trail,” Christensen told KSL during an interview Monday.

Christensen found himself simply following the topography of the land until he came upon a ravine.

While attempting to go around it, he fell.

“(I) slipped on a rock, fell down a cliff,” Christensen said. “(I) then slid probably another 100 feet or so.”

At that point, it was close to 8 p.m. Sunday and the landscape was dark.

Christensen had deep lacerations to his left hand and right shin and he wasn’t equipped to spend the night.

“I was woefully underprepared,” he said. “I thought there was a good possibility I would die at that point because I had no idea what was down there.”

American Fork Canyon is known to have poor cell reception, but he somehow found service and sent a text to his ex-wife.

“I said ‘I got hurt bad,’” Christensen said.

Shortly after sending the text, the trail runner’s phone died, apparently due to the cold.

He hoped his ex-wife had called for help. It was a waiting game.

I was woefully underprepared.

–Ben Christensen

Roughly three hours later, hope finally appeared on the horizon.

An airplane pilot who was assisting Utah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue spotted Christensen, who had powered on his phone again and started flashing the built-in flashlight.

At around the same time, Christensen said he dropped a pin and texted it to his ex-wife to pass along to rescuers.

Ground crews reached him within a couple of hours, evaluated his injuries and helped Christensen walk down the mountain.

“They were amazing, so (I) really appreciate them,” Christensen said.

Christensen’s ordeal happened one year to the date another trail runner’s body was recovered on the same mountain.

Derrik Jenkins was found deceased on Nov. 3, 2018, after he went out for a run on Halloween and never returned.

Christensen said he hoped others would pay attention to his story and always learn about their trails before they go, and come prepared with cell phones, flashlights, lighters and first aid supplies.

He said he realized his story could have ended differently.

“Glad to be here,” he smiled. “Yeah, (it) could have been a lot, lot worse.”

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Andrew Adams
Andrew Adams is a reporter for KSL-TV whose work can also be heard on KSL NewsRadio and read on and in the Deseret News.


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