The Team was called out on Labor Day weekend 2008 for two lost hikers in the Uncompahgre Wilderness area. The hikers had set out on the Horsethief Trail with the intent of doing a large loop hike with the Dexter Creek trail, but in overcast and foggy weather they got off the Difficulty Creek trail connecting the two. The hikers found a spot where they were able to get cell phone coverage and called for help on Sunday evening. We were then able to set up a direct line of communication with the hikers to assess the situation.
Fortunately for all involved, these were savvy hikers, who were well prepared for the unexpected. The hikers were carrying extra clothing, rain gear, options for starting a fire, and a map and compass. As darkness descended over the Difficulty Creek drainage, it was agreed that they would find a well sheltered spot to hunker down for the night. With continued communication we were able to positively confirm that the hikers were not injured and they were able to start a fire to keep themselves warm. We instructed them to stay in their current location and we would send up search teams the following morning. After re-establishing communcation at 0500 the next morning, we implemented our search plan, which consisted of several small search teams heading up various established trails in the area, as well as a communication relay network so that each search team could stay in constant communication with our base, and the base could then stay in touch with the lost hikers. Using landmarks and solid map and compass techniques, the hikers were located by mid morning and escorted to safety.
The moral of this story is that age old adage of being prepared. The successful outcome of this search and rescue was largely aided by the fact that the lost hikers carried the appropriate equipment and used good old common sense. They simply lost their way, but their actions during this mission were a textbook example of what should be done in such a situation.