SALT LAKE COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Salt Lake County Search and Rescue mobilized to rescue a lost hiker Friday evening, and now, Tracey Wootton is speaking out and thanking her rescue crews.
The operation began around 5 p.m. when crews were first called out and ended when the patient was loaded into a helicopter around 1:30 a.m. Wootton knew conditions were changing quickly.
“I was terrified, I kept on falling, I could not stay on that mountain, I kept on tripping, I was going through brush, I was in snow and rocks,” said Tracey Wootton, a West Jordan hiker, said.
Crews were called out for a female hiker who had summited Mt. Olympus Friday afternoon and while on her way down the trail she inadvertently traveled in Heughes Canyon.
“I was cold, my feet were wet because I fell in the snow, so I put my hoodie over my legs and just sat there,” Tracey Wootton, a West Jordan hiker, said.
Wootton is an experienced hiker and was wearing layers, carrying an extra cell phone battery pack and had food and water with her. She recognized after a 1,000-foot fall that she was lost and called 911 for help.
“After some time making attempts to re-find the main trail moving through steep terrain with thick brush, she became exhausted and knew she was lost and called for help around 4:30 p.m.,” SAR said.
The first team, using her GPS position and eventually with voice contact, was able to locate her and then assisted her back up toward the saddle. As they neared the saddle, the second team helped guide them back with their headlamps and shouting.
Both teams along with the patient descended back down the main trail until the patient sustained a minor injury from a ground-level fall near the top of “blister hill.”
At this point, further travel was severely hampered and a Department of Public Safety helicopter was called to help. The DPS helicopter was able to find a suitable location to skid load the patient at about 1:30 a.m.
The four SAR members then hiked back down the trail and were off the mountain just after 2:30 a.m.
Since the incident, the head of incident command told ABC4 News that the weather can be deceiving this time of year.
“It might look really nice on the valley, but once you get into the backcountry it’ pretty cold, icy, there is snow up there, and the conditions can change at any minute,” said Sgt. James Blanton of Unified Police.
Experts say hikers should carry fire kits and make sure they have supplies to survive 24 hours if need be.