Washoe County SAR reminds hikers about safety after rescue last week

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 11:30 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Washoe County Search and Rescue (SAR) officials are reminding hikers to be safe in the backcountry.

Randy Malm is a volunteer with SAR’s Hasty Team.

“Being able to be out and helping people is great,” he said. “A day for us usually means eating dinner with our family and then Sergeant Fisher reaching out at dinner time saying that there are people lost or stuck up on Mt. Rose.”

Other calls usually involve an injury or someone who wasn’t prepared for weather conditions.

“They often get to the place where now they’re cold, their cell phone may have died because of the temperatures out and that’s when things turn from what could’ve been a nice day to a dangerous situation.”

So dangerous that it could be fatal. Last week a woman died, and a man was rescued and treated for hypothermia after they were caught in extremely cold weather while hiking in Utah’s Zion National Park.

Also last week, Washoe County’s SAR team performed a rescue related to weather changes.

“When you get in a situation that you just can’t get out of it might be a little too late, about the time when you feel that feeling in the back of your head, it’s about the time you need to call,” said Sergeant Joshua Fisher with WCSO.

Both Fisher and Malm recommend not always trusting what’s on your phone because what may seem like perfect weather at a lower elevation, can be a totally different story up in the mountains.

“It says on the internet that you can be in and out of this trail (Thomas Creek Trailhead) in 45 minutes and when you throw a few of those bumps along the way whether it’s conditions or your attire, it can turn into hours,” said Malm. “You can start in a spot where it’s warm and it’s nice, it feels sunny but then you get right over our ridge and those winds pick up and that’s often the situation that now it’s cold.”

The number one recommendation is to let a friend or family member know where you’re headed and about where you plan to enter and exit.

“Also, make sure that their batteries are charged and that they do have a spare battery packed,” said Fisher. “We tell people to make sure that their phones are on. All of our abilities to find your location if you are injured usually have to do with a phone ping or some geotag program.”

It’s also important that you dress in layers, utilize a boot or waterproof shoes, pack food, and a Garmin In Reach and if you encounter any problems during your hike turn back.

Another recommendation is to practice hiking preparation before hitting the trails. Fisher says that if you find yourself having to call 911, be persistent even if your phone says ‘no service’ and be patient once you get connected.

SAR expects calls for rescue to increase during winter. They recommend using trusted apps like Caltopo and Gaia.