Four Hiking Deaths in the Sandia Mountains

The largest headline in this morning's Albuquerque Journal: "Fourth hiker this year found dead in the Sandias." The subhead: "2 men located on Wednesday were experienced hikers." The only reason to blog on such tragic news is to extract information that may help other hikers avoid similar fates.

All four deaths occurred high in the Sandias, where the terrain is rugged and cliffs are common. All four involved fatal falls. Two of the hikers were highly experienced, as the subhead indicates, but were hiking alone. In one case rescuers worked to locate the missing hiker using his cell phone signal, but the phone battery soon died.


The first issue I'll raise is, what if you fall in such rugged terrain and instead of being killed outright, you're badly injured? Your hiking companions will need to find a way down to you, they'll need to administer extensive first aid, and they'll need to seek help. If you're hiking alone, none of those things will happen—so a serious fall that's not immediately fatal will be fatal anyway.  So two lessons. First, don't hike alone. Second, have a serious first aid kit (and the skills to go with it) so you can respond to major injuries, not just the occasional cut or scrape.


The drained cell phone battery involved in one of the incidents wasn't a contributing factor, in the sense that by the time the phone died, that person probably was dead already. But if he had been injured and alive, maintaining cell phone contact with rescuers could have been the difference between life and death. So a third lesson: on a hike, save your cell phone battery for when it really matters.