09:35 AM

Cell Phone Team 'Game-Changer' Leads Colo. Searchers to Lost Hiker

Capt. Margot Myers
Public Information Officer
National Cell Phone Forensics Team

A man in his 20s who became lost on a solo hike near Mount Evans in Colorado is the 15th person saved this year through the efforts of Civil Air Patrol’s National Cell Phone Forensics Team.

The team’s Maj. Justin Ogden responded Saturday to an alert from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center regarding a distressed/missing hiker in Clear Creek County. Paul “Woody” Woodward, a mission coordinator with the volunteer Alpine Rescue Team, had worked with Ogden previously and said, “I knew immediately that I had to reach out for help.”

The lost hiker “sent a text message and made a 10-second phone call to his roommate,” Woodward said. “He said he was 2 to 3 miles away from his car at the trailhead.”

Once the mission was opened, Ogden activated the “communicator” capability in the team’s software sent a message to the hiker. By clicking on the link in the message, the hiker provided location information with GPS coordinates and an accuracy of plus or minus 8 meters.

“While our rescue team was still driving to the trailhead to get to him, we got the coordinates from Justin,” Woodward said. “It was a game-changer.

“He was actually about 6½ miles from his car. We would have been searching in the wrong place without those coordinates.”

“Within 16 minutes after alert, we had a pinpoint location,” Ogden said. “This is as good as it gets.”

Ogden reassured Woodward that he had multiple responses from the hiker’s cellphone indicating his correct location. He told the AFRCC to relay to Woodward that he had “20 measurements all in the same spot.”

The location was about 250 feet off one of the trails in the area and about half a mile from the road to the top of Mount Evans.

Woodward said the missing hiker had left around 8:30 a.m. Saturday and got lost around noon.

“We don’t know how he got to where he was,” he said. “He was off the road to Mount Evans, and the road was covered with snow.”

It took five hours for the first field team to reach the hiker, who was at an elevation of 11,600 feet. The searchers faced avalanche conditions as well as light snow and 20 mph winds, with gusts up to 40 mph.When they found him, the man was cold but uninjured.

“The first field team got to him around 1 a.m.,” Woodward said. “The coordinates Justin gave us enabled us to get right to him. The team got him warmed up and gave him some food, then they hiked out.”

The rescuers and the rescued hiker returned to their base about 7:30 a.m.