Hiking’s deaths, dangers and precautions

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Hikers enjoy the sights of Capitol Reef. (Twitter)
Hikers enjoy the sights of Capitol Reef. As the number of out-of-state hikers coming to Utah increases, so does a lack of knowledge on hiking safety. (Twitter)

There is a one in a 15,700 chance you will die mountain hiking, according Russell Newcombe & Sally Woods Centre for Applied Psychology.

With increasing amounts of people moving to Utah from out-of-state, ignorant hiking poses a greater danger every year. With the recent death of Kerry Crowley, the reported death toll of hikers this summer in Utah is now eight. Officials of the Utah Parks and Recreation Association are worried about hikers’ safety.

“Hiking is supposed to be a challenging but enjoyable experience,” said Kim Olsen, executive director of the Utah Parks and Recreation Association. “But when people do not take the right precautions their safety is at serious risk. This is not a game. These are real cliffs and death is a real possibility.”

As with any hike, there is always the possibility of injury or risk of life; therefore the Hiking in Utah Association has provided the following precautions for hikers to consider before hitting the trail:

  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the hike.
  • Hike with a partner in case one of you needs to seek help.
  • Hikers trek through Needles, Utah. (Twitter)
    Hikers trek through Needles, Utah. When hiking, it is best to keep both a cell phone and a GPS since phones can lose reception. (Twitter)

    Leave detailed instructions with family or friends on where you will be hiking and when people can expect you to return.

  • Check the current and future weather conditions if you are planning an extended hiking.
  • Leave a note in your vehicle at the trail-head indicating where you will be hiking and when you anticipate returning in case you don’t return.
  • Carry a cell phone and GPS with you. Keep in mind cell phone reception varies from location to location
  • Pack a survival kit including some sort of signaling device, fire starter and an emergency blanket for extended hiking trips.
  • Learn basic first aid for handling medical emergencies and pack a first aid kit.
  • Carry plenty of water or a water filter.
  • Carry electrolytes to be taken with water.

All too often, hikers go missing because their lack of preparation or mental awareness of their surroundings contributed to injury or death. However, novice backpackers are not the only ones to fall victim; experienced hikers also can get lost, become disoriented, and die due to overconfidence.

Dale Dreher, author of “210 Dumb Ways to Die,” describes the condition that can lead hikers to clumsy mistakes.

“Even the best hikers can fall into Summit Hypnosis. Summit Hypnosis is a condition where hikers become so fixated on reaching a goal that they let another factors (e.g., impeding adverse weather conditions, poor conditioning, etc.) cloud their judgement,” Dreher said. “In fact, this preoccupation can contribute to blindness about everything around you, including your companions’ physical condition. Therefore, communication is key.”

With the recent flash floods killing 18 people in southern Utah, it is wise for hikers to take precautions and check conditions before a hike. Seven people died in Zion’s Keyhole canyon on September 16. The flooding has taken more lives than any natural disaster in the United States this year.

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