The hiker, who has not been named, had been reported missing on 18 October at 8pm and was found the next morning, Lake County Search and Rescue (LCSR) officials said in a 21 October statement.
Officials said the hiker, who had started the trek on Mount Elbert from the south trailhead at 9am that morning and had not returned by 8pm, was not answering calls on cell phone.
The hiker later told officials they had lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night trying to locate the correct path.
The hiker finally found their car after they “bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead,” said the statement.
The hiker said they did not know rescue teams had been trying to call them.
“One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognise the number,” the statement added.
A team of five officials from the LCSR were deployed at 10pm on 18 October to track down the hiker, but they could not be located.
While the rescue party ended their search at 3am on 19 October, a separate team of three officials resumed search at 7am in an area where hikers are known to lose the trail.
At 9.30am, rescue officials discovered the hiker had returned to their lodging site, the statement said.
“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,” said the statement.
LCSR said trails at Mount Elbert get obscured by snow above the treeline until late June. “Please don’t count on following your ascent tracks to descend the mountain, as wind will often cover your tracks,” it said.
In a pinned comment, the officials also pointed out that what may appear to be common sense in hindsight “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 [Search And Rescue] infrastructure that is there to help them, but this is not the case nation-wide,” the comment said.
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