“I’m not answering that!” is a common refrain nowadays when an unknown number pops up on our phones. But then, most of the time we haven’t been missing in the wilderness for 24 hours.
Authorities say a man, who remains unidentified, became lost while hiking on Colorado’s tallest mountain, Mount Elbert, and ignored multiple phone calls from rescue teams because they came from an unknown number.
Lake County Search and Rescue (LCSAR) claims it got a report last week that a hiker hadn’t returned from the mountain — he had set out at 9 a.m. on Oct. 18 and wasn’t back by 8 p.m., said the organization on its official Facebook page.
“Multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful,” reads the LCSAR statement.
Five rescue team members were deployed later that night to search “high probability areas,” but they failed to locate the man by early the next morning.
A second team of rescuers resumed the search at 7 a.m. on Oct. 19, but they were soon notified that the hiker, who didn’t know he was being searched for, had already returned to where he was staying.
“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,” LCSAR said.
The lesson here is to answer your phone — no matter what the number is — if you’re not where you’re supposed to be at a certain time, particularly if you’re out hiking alone.
“The subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number,” LCSAR said. “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!”
LCSAR also emphasized that when someone is in a difficult situation, it can be hard to be logical or make the right decision.
“Please remember that what seems like common sense in hindsight is not obvious to a subject in the moment when they are lost and panicking,” it said.