Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
John Hollenhorst ReportingThe current search for the missing 12-year old Boy Scout is the third well-publicized search in the High Uintas in the last year. One ended tragically with the deaths of two women. Experts say there's a good reason hikers get lost, it's easy to get confused.
It's a bit of an irony, one reason people get into trouble in the Mirror Lake area is that it's so easy to get there. The highest paved road in Utah takes even the least prepared people to nearly 11,000 feet.
The rugged area where Garrett Bardsley disappeared has several prominent landmarks -- three high peaks, nearby cliffs. With those, and a good map, an experienced hiker should keep his bearings. But R.E.I. hiking experts say a 12-year-old needs to have such features pointed out in advance. Other features can be disorienting.
Gary Nichols, Outdoors Instructor: “Several lakes that look the same, trees blocking the view. And it would be easy to get confused as to which lake you were by.”
Walking in the High Uintas can be rocky and difficult. And the topography near Mirror Lake is especially complex. In a small area, the headwaters of all four of Northern Utah's biggest rivers run in four directions.
Dave Smith, Camping & Climbing Expert: “So if you get confused, go over a ridge, you can suddenly be out of the drainage that you came in. And if you’re really confused and think this is the trail you want to go, you can wind up a long ways from where you want to be.”
Experts say the best defense is the Boy Scout motto: 'Be Prepared'. Proper clothing for bad weather, a map, compass, adult leadership. And when someone separates from the group, a second person should go along.
That did not happen in the Bardsley case, which is under investigation by the Boy Scouts, locally and nationally.
John Gailey, Utah National Parks Council: “How this happened of the boy out with his father, and how the boy got lost, there’s still a lot of things there we need to see if there’s any adjustments that should be made.”
The buddy system doesn't always work. Last year two out-of-state women got lost together and died together.
Dave Smith: “There’s not anything that is completely foolproof. You know, people get lost in urban areas.”
Experts say the best safety investment you can make is to spend a couple of bucks to have a whistle in your pocket. And if you get in trouble, you just put your lips together and blow.
Gary Nichols: “It’s something everyone should carry.”
Disappearances are relatively rare considering the thousands of people who go into the Uintas every year. The hiking experts say, there's probably more danger driving there than hiking there.