A hiker got lost while climbing Mount Elbert, the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains. They set out at 9 a.m. on October 18. The trail usually takes about seven hours in total. When they didn’t return at 8 p.m., the rescuers went out to search for them. They tried calling the hiker’s phone but there was no answer. At 11 p.m., five LCSAR team members searched for the hiker in the usual areas where people get lost but stopped looking at 3 a.m. At 7 the next morning, three more team members resumed the search.
Fortunately, the unidentified hiker had returned to where they were lodging, notifying the search team at about 9:30 a.m. The hiker, throughout it all, had no idea there was a hunting party for them. 
Lost Hiker Ignores Rescue Calls
So Lake County Search and Rescue posted the situation on Facebook, explaining that “The subject stated they’d lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching for the trail, and once on the trail, bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead, finally reaching their car the next morning, approximately 24 hours after they’d started their hike.”
The post concluded with a noteworthy takeaway. The hiker ignored repeated calls from the team because it was an unrecognized phone number.
“If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a SAR team trying to confirm you’re safe!”
In a comment under their post, LCSAR added that a reminder that “what seems like common sense in hindsight is not obvious to a subject in the moment when they are lost and panicking.” They added that while many outdoorsy people in Colorado understand how the search and rescue team operates, it’s not nationwide knowledge.
It’s very likely that the hiker was preoccupied with trying to find the right trail and assumed the unknown calls were spam because that’s what they usually are. It’s difficult to think clearly when you are lost and scared. Fortunately, the hiker was able to find their way back to their car on their own. But if they had answered the phone, the whole ordeal could have ended earlier.
LCSAR added another important notice about their trails: “Please remember that the trail is obscured by snow above the treeline, and will be in that condition now through probably late June. Please don’t count on following your ascent tracks to descend the mountain, as wind will often cover your tracks.” 
Tips on Hiking in the Rockies
Aside from answering calls from the local sear and rescue team, here are some other ways to stay safe while on the trail.
- Bring plenty of water. You don’t want to get stuck and dehydrated while hiking.
- Bring layers, including rain gear. Weather and temperatures could change rapidly in the mountains, so bring clothes you could layer on and off while keeping you dry.
- Don’t hike alone. Having a hiking buddy could save your life in the event of an injury. But if you go alone, ensure someone knows where you are going and when you’ll be back.
- Pack snacks, a flashlight, bug spray, and a first aid kit in addition to extra layers and water. Never forget the water.
- Follow the rules, including keeping on the trail, not feeding the animals, and not littering. Different trails may have additional guidelines. 
- Wear durable hiking boots that are supportive, breathable, and waterproof.
- Wear sun protection. You’re more likely to get burned at high elevations, so wear sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
- Pace yourself. Hikes are not sprints so take your time and don’t overexert yourself.
Also, don’t pick a trail at random. Do research to ensure you pick a route that matches your abilities, whether you want a beginner’s hike or a challenging route. One system categorizes the difficulty of trails into easy, moderate, and strenuous. Easy is relativity flat, moderate has elevation with a few obstacles, while strenuous has steeper elevation with many obstacles. Proper preparation before the hike makes the trail safer and much more enjoyable. 
Keep Reading: Dolphins Alert Rescue Crew to Lost Swimmer Who Had Been Stranded for 12 Hours
- “Missing hiker ignored calls from rescuers because it was an unknown number.” CNN. David Williams. October 26, 2021
- “A lost hiker ignored rescuers’ phone calls, thinking they were spam.” NPR. Bill Chappell. October 26, 2021
- “TOP 10 TIPS FOR HIKING IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK.” Visit Estes Park. June 2, 2014
- “YOUR FIRST TRIP HIKING THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.” Wildland and Trekking. October 23, 2018