WASHINGTON — A Colorado hiker who had to spend the night while lost off-trail during a trek at Mount Elbert could have been helped sooner if only they had answered multiple phone calls from rescuers, instead of choosing to ignore the "unknown number."
Lake County Search and Rescue out of Leadville, Colorado, posted a seemingly frustrated plea to hikers who may be overdue on their return to "please answer the phone; it may be a SAR team trying to confirm you’re safe!"
In a message posted to the group's Facebook page, Lake County SAR said that the subject became lost on Oct. 18, and rescuers were alerted to an overdue hiker at around 8 p.m. local time that evening. Rescuers say they tried the person's phone multiple times, but their calls were never answered because, as they later found out, the hiker simply did not recognize the number on their mobile phone caller ID, according to Lake County rescuers.
Five rescuers were deployed around 10 p.m. local time that evening to search areas of the mountain trail where it was most likely the hiker would be. The hiker was not located that night. Rescuers were out on the search for about five hours overnight, and did not end their search until about 3 a.m. that next morning.
Lake County Search and Rescue said in their Facebook post that the "subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number."
Rescuers said the person spent the night looking for their way back after losing the trail around nightfall. They finally reached their car the next morning, about 24 hours after their hike had started. They said they had no idea a search and rescue team was out looking for them and trying to call them on those 'unknown number' calls which they didn't answer through the night.
After the initial Facebook post, the organization encouraged commenters to "remember that what seems like common sense in hindsight is not obvious to a subject in the moment when they are lost and panicking."
Mount Elbert's elevation stands at about 14,440 feet and it is a popular destination for hikers, but trails are covered in snow for most of the year. Lake County Search and Rescue urges hikers to remember that the trail is obscured by snow above the tree line, and will stay that way until late June, possibly. Rescuers urge hikers to learn all up-to-date safety warnings and tips before a hike.