Mountain Rescues Increase, Hikers Unprepared


POSTED: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 8:50pm

UPDATED: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 11:02am

EL PASO - It takes 10 people to rescue one hiker in the Franklin Mountains, and usually dozens of workers respond to a mountain rescue on the taxpayer's expense. So what's going on that so many people need to be rescued?

"These mountains look very beautiful, and I think it gives that false sense of security," El Paso Fire Department Spokesman John Concha said.

Concha says every year rescuers pull more and more hikers off the mountain. Search and rescue teams came out 13 times in 2010, and as it gets warmer in the Borderland this year more people will hike the trails. So what is it about the Franklin Mountains that's so dangerous?

"There's a lot of ridges, a lot of valleys, a lot of wash, that once you're up there you can get disoriented. You can get lost," Concha said.

We're told most mountain rescues happen because people aren't prepared. The most common hiking mistakes include people getting caught under the hot sun without enough water, wearing shorts and flip flops to hike on dangerous terrain, hiking off trail, and losing track of time.

Even experienced hiker Taton Vance has trekked into trouble.

"I went up one of the higher peaks and we got up there and the sun was still up. You get on top of the mountain and you look over the West side and you see the sun way up in the sky, then on the east it's not quite the same. You get up there, the sun goes down on the other side of the mountain, and it gets dark over here really quick," Vance said.

People also underestimate the mountains. It takes 2 hours to hike up the McKelligon Canyon and two hours to hike down. That's why the El Paso Fire Department recommends having a cell phone, hiking in a group and of course drinking lots of water before and during the hike.

"I try to take three of four bottles of water with me at a time, just to be safe, in case something happens and I'm stuck up there longer than I planned on being up there," Vance said.

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I'd like to add to the above comment that the rescued hikers ought to be charged for the rescue services. Let them pay.

And I really hate to be a "wet blanket" but knowing how easy it is to get lost or need to be rescued, why on earth are people allowed to hike up there? Why should the taxpayers have to pay for the dimwittedness of hikers who should know better?

Charge them for the rescue, post the costs on the trail heads, and I bet the number of incidents will go down!

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