Lost female hiker guided out by the moonlight
Steamboat Pilot and Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A 23-year-old woman who moved from Minnesota to Steamboat Springs three weeks ago got a crash course Sunday in outdoor survival.
Amber Paul had ankle surgery five weeks ago but was eager to get back on her feet and decided to hike Hahn’s Peak with its summit at 10,839 feet.
“This was supposed to be a hike to get me back into things,” Paul said.
She started hiking at 4 p.m. and thought she was going the right way. After hiking for about two hours, the trail she was following ended, and there was no magnificent view similar to the one described in Diane White-Crane’s book, “Hiking the ‘Boat.”
So Paul started hiking back.
“I forgot which ‘T’ I took and took the one that I thought was going down the mountain,” Paul said.
She was only getting more lost, and at 8 p.m., she said she got worried with night approaching. It was getting cold, she was wearing only shorts and a tank top and she was out of water. Bad cell phone service made it difficult for her to communicate with her roommate for help, and she decided to call 911 shortly before 9 p.m.
“I don’t even know how the 911 call went through,” Paul said.
Operators were able to get Paul’s coordinates from the phone.
Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers were called to help.
Volunteer Russ Sanford said they were lucky to be able to pinpoint Paul’s location. In the past, searchers have not been able to get coordinates from people with T-Mobile service.
Sanford told Paul to turn off the light on her cell phone to conserve power and to walk southwest toward the moon.
“I talked her out by the light of the moon,” Sanford said. “It’s not the first time we’ve talked people out using celestial objects.”
Paul was told to periodically call 911, so operators could get updated coordinates, but she was concerned with Sanford’s instructions.
“I was scared when he said, ‘Use the moon,’” Paul said.
After hiking a total of 16 miles, Paul found her car right as a Routt County sheriff’s deputy pulled up.
“It all worked out really well,” Sanford said.
Paul said she was grateful for the help from search and rescue and 911 operators.
“They did such a good job calming me down and checking on my coordinates,” Paul said.