Freezing hikers stranded in Zion park found with infrared sensors. See dramatic rescue

Utah Department of Public Safety

Two hikers stranded in the frozen wilderness of Zion National Park for more than 24 hours were rescued by helicopter from an icy ravine.

Park officials received a report of two overdue hikers on Saturday, Jan. 21, according to a National Park Service news release.

They had tried to hike down from the top of the park’s Subway route the day before, but they didn’t return as planned, the Jan. 26 release said.

Park officials sent rangers up to the Kolob Terrace Road to launch a rescue mission and prepare a landing zone for Utah’s Department of Public Safety rescue helicopter, the release said.

The department’s helicopter crew used Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) to find the hikers, who were trapped down inside an icy ravine, video of the rescue shows.

In the video, one of the hikers can be seen on the infrared camera waving their arms up toward the chopper. “I’m mentally preparing myself to be really cold,” someone says in the video.

A specialist dropped in from the helicopter and filmed the rescue with a helmet camera, which clearly showed the treacherous, frigid conditions of the ravine. The specialist hoisted the hikers back into the copter, the video shows.

Both were flown to a National Park Service medical team that was waiting to treat them. One was “dangerously hypothermic” and was taken to a hospital, the release said. That hiker was in stable condition as of Thursday.

The National Park Service credited the timely rescue to the help from Utah’s Department of Public Safety.

However, “helicopters are not always available, and even when they are, conditions don’t always allow them to fly,” , the release said.

“Winter conditions create an extremely challenging rescue environment,” Zion Chief Park Ranger Daniel Fagergren said. “Currently, many of our canyons drop to sub-zero temperatures at night, streams and pools are iced over and deep snow covers the trails at higher elevations.”

Park officials asked hikers and other visitors to ease the burden on rescuers by being more prepared before venturing into the park. Use the free resources available at the National Park Service’s website, the app, and ask a park ranger what to expect when you get to the park, the release said.

“Do not take risks that will endanger you or potential rescuers,” the release said.

“When you visit, you need to understand and be prepared for the conditions you might face here,” Fagergren said. “These kinds of operations are inherently dangerous for our staff and our partners, and they don’t all end like this one.”

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