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Hiking Alone: Common Thread In Four Rocky Mountain National Park Fatalities, Searches

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Courtesy National Park Service
A hiker traverses The Ledges, part of the Longs Peak trail in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Updated Dec. 3, 2018: Search teams, including alpine rescuers, a dog team and two Colorado National Guard helicopters, have searched roughly 10 square miles along for Micha Tice.
 
Officials located and interviewed a couple who spoke with Tice in the Longs Peak area for about 20 minutes early on the morning of Nov. 24, establishing that as the day he went hiking. The couple, who may have been the last people to speak with Tice, said he was wearing a black sweatshirt and sweatpants, lightweight gloves and tennis shoes and carrying a blue backpack.
 
Weather that morning turned rough quickly, with blizzard conditions, extremely high winds and bitter cold temperatures.
 
The original story continues below...

Two peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park have proven perilous this year: Longs Peak and Mount Meeker.

In June, Brian Perri, 38, of Fort Collins, likely died instantly after falling 25 to 40 feet on Mount Meeker. In August, Jens "Jay" Yambert, 60, of Urbana, Ill., died on Longs Peak. In October, 30-year-old Ryan Albert of New Jersey went missing. He was last seen in the Granite Pass area of Longs Peak and extensive search efforts, including the use of a dog team, failed to find him before winter weather gripped the area.

Now, searchers are looking for 20-year-old Micha Tice, an Air Force Academy prep school student, whose vehicle was found at the Longs Peak Trailhead on Monday. Crews, which began searching on Tuesday, can only guess what Tice’s planned route was. Conditions are treacherous in places, especially above the tree line. He is believed to have went hiking Friday (Nov. 23) and Saturday brought significant snowfall, extremely high winds and bitter cold temperatures around the peak, according to Kyle Patterson, a spokeswoman for the park.

All four hikers this year share a commonality: they set out on their expeditions alone, she said.

So far this year, there have been 26 search and rescue incidents on the two mountains. Some of those incidents resolved themselves, Patterson said. For instance, some people simply arrived later than expected from their hikes, but only after their families or friends made reports. Others faced needed assistance with issues like ankle injuries, she added.

Those incidents are a small part of a much bigger picture. In 2017, the most recent data available, the highly-visited Rocky Mountain National Park had 165 search and rescue incidents. That’s the third most in the country, according to a KUNC analysis of National Park Service data earlier this year. Only Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, with 290 search and rescues, and Yosemite National Park in California, with 233, had more.

There were five deaths in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2017.

The park is open year-round, Patterson said, but hikers are encouraged to check weather forecasts and conditions ahead of their visits as well as to notify family members or friends of their trip, with a check-in time, if they are going alone. Cellphone coverage may not be available in all areas but hikers are increasingly using personal locator beacons that send information to rescuers about their whereabouts.

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