Last week, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office responded to a number of hikers in distress in the Mount St. Helens area.
At about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, deputies responded to the area of the Hummocks Trail for a lost hiker. A 49-year-old man from North Carolina lost the trail he was walking on when he encountered snow.
“He followed footprints in the snow that led him away from his intended destination,” according to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. “As sunset quickly approached, he called 911 knowing he wasn’t prepared to hike in the dark or shelter in place.”
While on the phone with 911 dispatch, the dispatcher was able to track his movement and direct him to State Route 504. Deputies arrived in the area and deployed a drone. A deputy located the male on State Route 504 near the Loowit Viewpoint with the drone.
Two other deputies hiked half a mile to reach the lost hiker in more than 3 feet of snow. They were able to walk the male out and transport him to the Hummocks Trailhead where he was evaluated by medical personnel.
About five minutes after finding the first lost hiker, at approximately 9 p.m., deputies received notification of three stranded hikers near Coldwater Lake.
Three females in their late 20s from the Seattle area were hiking the Coldwater Lakes Trail, where they too encountered deep snow. The snow was too deep to traverse so they decided to return to lake level where they knew there wasn’t any snow.
When they reached the lake level, the terrain was too difficult for them to hike back to their vehicles. One of the hikers used her GPS device to contact the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), which in turn contacted law enforcement for assistance.
The IERCC provided the GPS coordinates to the Sheriff’s Office. A deputy used his drone to fly to the coordinates where he located the three stranded hikers. Another deputy responded to Coldwater Lake with a jet boat. He and another deputy deployed the boat and were able to rescue the three stranded hikers from the bank of Coldwater Lake just after midnight.
Cowlitz County Search and Rescue also responded to the area to assist with the rescue of the stranded hikers.
“The hikers this weekend were quick to think on their feet and made it out OK,” the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook. “While it is the beginning of spring, there are still hazards being out of doors particularly at higher elevations. Be prepared for all scenarios with the proper clothing, water, food, flashlight and cellphone and let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.”