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Hiker Lost for 24 Hours Ignored Repeated Calls from Rescuers 'Because They Didn't Recognize the Number'

·2-min read
Mount Elbert, Colorado
Mount Elbert, Colorado

Getty Mount Elbert, Colorado

Sometimes it pays off to answer a call from an unknown number.

Colorado authorities shared on Thursday that one hiker spent about 24 hours navigating their way back to their car, only to later realize that they had repeatedly ignored calls from would-be rescuers.

Lake County Search and Rescue first received a call about an "overdue hiker" on Mount Elbert — Colorado's highest peak — around 8 p.m. on Oct. 18, they wrote in a Facebook post. Authorities said the individual began their hike around 9 a.m. that day.

After "multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful," a five-team search party was deployed at 10 p.m. Initial rescue efforts were concluded at 3 a.m. the following morning, and hours later another search and rescue team turned their efforts to an area "where hikers typically lose the trail," officials said.

Then, at about 9:30 a.m. that day, the individual who first reported the missing hiker said the individual had returned home, authorities explained.

RELATED: Missing Hiker Found After Authorities Asked Hikers for Help Identifying His Location in Photo Sent to Friend

The hiker later said that "they had no idea" any search efforts were underway.

"The subject stated they'd lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching," authorities wrote. The following morning, "approximately 24 hours after they'd started their hike," the hiker was able to find their way back to their car.

"One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn't recognize the number," the Lake County Search and Rescue team wrote.

As for current conditions, the search team also reminded all Mount Elbert hikers to "remember that the trail is obscured by snow above treeline, and will be in that condition now through probably late June."

"Please don't count on following your ascent tracks to descend the mountain, as wind will often cover your tracks," they wrote.

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Authorities went on to encourage any hikers who find themselves in a similar position to "please answer the phone."

"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!" they wrote.

In a follow-up comment, authorities noted that although this may "seem like common sense in hindsight, it is not obvious to a subject in the moment when they are lost and panicking."

"In Colorado, most folks who spend time outdoors have a good understanding of the SAR infrastructure that is there to help them, but this is not the case nation-wide," they added, urging social media users to "please keep your comments respectful."

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