Searchers say two hikers lost in Glacier’s Backcountry last month made several good choices that helped rescuers find them. Hikers Neal Peckens and Jason Hiser’s overnight hike in Glacier Park extended over 5-nights after a fall, and a lost map left them stranded.
Glacier National Park Chief Ranger Mark Foust says the men were supposed to be out on Wednesday, October 10th, but the Park didn’t get word they were overdue until they missed their Friday flight back home. The search started Saturday morning, three days after the two were supposed to be out of the woods.
“They had been doing a lot of smart things to keep themselves alive as the searchers were going through some pretty treacherous terrain and weather to try and find them,” Foust said searchers were getting a late start. Most successful outcomes happen in the first 24-hours someone is missing. He says the hikers did several things right when they found themselves stranded. First off, they were prepared with head lamps, had a space blanket they used for heat at night, and as a signaling device during the day, they lit a fire to stay warm, and they rationed their food.
“What they told me is they were sittin’ still, hoping to be rescued, not wanting to wander around much, but then waiting for the weather to break before they tried to go back to where they knew they should go. So, they made a great decision to stop where they were, and wait,” Foust said.
Rain, sleet, hail, snow and wind hampered search efforts and they were found on Monday afternoon, October 15th.
“What our searcher actually found on the ground was a red, plastic rain poncho- one of those 99-cent rain ponchos that they had tied to a bush to flap in the breeze, and that’s what the searcher saw. As soon as he saw that, he started yelling out and Neal and Jason heard his voice, and immediately started blowing the whistle that they had with them to signal back to him,” Foust said.
Foust said it’s a good reminder for backcountry hikers, and hunters; be prepared for cold, thirst, hunger, hike with a buddy, and make sure someone knows where you’re going, and when you plan to return. “We’re very blessed to live, and work, and recreate in one of the most beautiful places on earth, but it can also be pretty unforgiving at times as well.”