More students than ever are being rescued off Utah Valley mountians


    By Cristopher Rees

    BYU students are warned by local authorities to beware of the mountains.

    With the onset of spring, many students look for adventure, but discover that danger is out there.

    Lieutenant Dave Bennett of the Utah County Sheriff’s Department said that calls for search and rescues are high for this time of year.

    Twenty-five calls have already been answered since January, with 10 calls usually being the average for the entire year, he said.

    “We get a lot of BYU students, or transplants, that take on more than they’re prepared for and end up in trouble,” Bennett said.

    Bennett is over the Emergency Service Division that handles approximately 95 percent of the search and rescues in Utah County.

    Phil Schow, manger of Hansen High Adventure in Orem, said that on average, one to two BYU students die annually in the mountains.

    “People come here from other areas of the country, ‘flatlanders’ not used to the altitude, and go into areas over their heads,” Schow said.

    Schow said students do not realize the dangers at the top of the mountain.

    “You go up three, four, five, six thousand feet and you’re in snow,” he said.

    Students set out during the day in shorts and a tee-shirt, and get caught in subfreezing temperatures at night, Schow said.

    Bennett said that he’s seen people go on long hikes in swimsuits and sandals.

    Douglas Hansen, Mountain Rescue instructor, said that the first body he ever pulled of the mountain was a student.

    “It seemed like every fall and every spring, I pulled another body off the mountains,” Hansen said.

    Hansen also said that people look up at the mountains and they do not seem so challenging.

    “It is three times harder when you are coming back down,” he said.

    Paul Byrd, director of BYU Emergency Medical Services and Search and Rescue volunteer, said students are not cautious enough.

    “Every year a number of students take unnecessary risks and chance, and don’t turn back,” he said.

    Byrd advises students to be prepared when they go into the mountains.

    Hiking with a friend, taking proper equipment, reading up on the area and informing people of your whereabouts are all essential to safe hiking, Bennett said.

    People that do not educate themselves beforehand, never realize how close they are to crossing the line of safety, Hansen said.

    “A lot of time people don’t know what they don’t know until it’s too late,” He said.

    Jeff Pederson, professional climber at Mountainworks, said that it is best to just sit and wait for help if you feel as if you are in danger.

    “It’s smarter to sit on a ledge and holler for help, than to try and come down on your own,” he said.

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