Three hikers were rescued by helicopter off the Wellsville Mountains late Sunday evening.
According to Cache County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Doyle Peck, a 20-year-old man and two 18-year-old women started from Rattlesnake Trailhead off of U.S. Highway 89/91 in an attempt to trek across the Wellsville mountains to Deep Canyon in Mendon.
Peck said the group encountered snow but pressed onward to the summit of Box Elder Peak, where they stopped and called for help. Cache County Search & Rescue responded around 6:30 p.m., Peck said, and ultimately a helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety was deployed to fetch the group off the west edge of the mountain’s ridge.
With the help of the helicopter, Peck said, the group of hikers and rescuers were all off the mountain before 10 p.m. Peck said the available helicopter prevented what likely would have been an all-night rescue on foot.
“That was the best way to get them down,” Peck said
According to Peck, the group hadn’t recognized they weren’t properly outfitted for snow and, at one point, put their coats on their feet to thwart the cold.
Typically, hikers trekking across the Wellsvilles leave a vehicle at their desired endpoint. Peck said, however, the hikers hadn’t organized a way to shuttle back to their vehicle.
“They just weren’t prepared, bottom line,” Peck said. “They shouldn’t have been up there.”
Peck said there were no injuries sustained in the incident, though the hikers initially reported potential frostbite and shock. Peck said the group was certainly very cold and increasingly fearful in the dark as cell phone batteries started to wane.
If the group hadn’t had phone service, Peck said the incident could have ended very differently.
“It could have been bad,” Peck said.
Peck said it’s best for new hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to know “it’s always colder on the mountain.”
“Weather can change on a dime,” Peck said, especially this time of year. “So, be aware.”
Peck encouraged anyone hiking to be prepared with additional food, water, lamps and weather-appropriate gear. Peck said it’s important for hikers to let others know their plans in case something goes awry.
“A little bit of common sense can go a long way toward keeping you safe,” Peck said. “I don’t want people to rely on luck, I want them to rely on preparation.”