Avenza App helps rescuers locate missing hikers

Avenza App helps rescuers locate missing hikers

November 15, 2020

Women OK after getting lost in Bookcliffs

GARY HARMON

Two women lost in the Bookcliffs on Tuesday night were ill-equipped for the cold and had nearly burned out their store of firewood when rescuers arrived.

The women, 35 and 37, were cold but needed no medical treatment, said Doug Sieckert, whose team found them about 9 p.m.

Four Mesa County Search and Rescue teams were sent out shortly after 5:30 p.m. after one of the women was able to call out on a 911 phone that was designed to send out calls, not receive them, Sieckert said.

Sieckert, a Palisade electrician who volunteers with search and rescue, was one of three members on the team that found the lost hikers.

Three other three-member teams searched other canyons.

The hikers "weren't prepared for anything," Sieckert said. "Luckily, they had a lighter," which they used to start a campfire.

A St. Mary's Hospital CareFlight crew sent out to aid in the search spotted the fire and gave coordinates to searchers on the ground.

Sieckert's team started their search in Main Canyon and hiked their way up about five miles when they found the women, whose fire was just flickering out.

"They couldn't find any more firewood," Sieckert said.

The temperature was probably in the high 20s under a new moon, he said.

"My CamelBak (hydration pack) mouthpiece froze" and the GPS units froze up as well, Sieckert said.

Rescue teams carry water and extra jackets. After the hikers got bundled up, the rescuers and women walked out, aided by flashlights and headlamps.

The women were on the main trail, he said.

"They just got caught in the dark, they didn't have flashlights or anything," Sieckert said.

Searchers used the Avenza map application, which worked on their smartphones even when they had no cell signal, he said.

The group made quick time back and the mission was complete about 10:30.

The hikers volunteered little information, though one said she was from Maine, Sieckert said.

"They just wanted to go home," Sieckert said.