The father of a stranded teenage hiker who was rescued Tuesday from Squaw Peak in Rock Canyon had an inkling the orange glow on the mountain the night before was his son's signal fire.
The mountain's rocky terrain trapped Justin LeFevre, 17, on a ledge just below the summit, at about the 8,500 feet elevation, Monday night. He built a fire and nestled there until the Provo Police Mountain Rescue team reached him Tuesday morning."Don't ask me what happened," Justin told his parents, Tom and Jenny LeFevre, as they embraced at the end of his all-night ordeal.
"I saw the fire last night. I thought it might be you," Tom LeFevre said.
He was right.
"I began to really worry when he didn't get in early enough to make it to school," said Tom LeFevre. LeFevre said he thought Justin might have been sleeping at a friend's house.
Police informed the LeFevres on Tuesday morning that their son was cornered in a crevice.
Dressed in a tank top, denim cutoffs and canvas sneakers, Justin started the solo hike about 5:30 p.m. Monday. Rescuers returned him to a lower level about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"I was planning on a leisurely hike for about an hour. It turned into 14 1/2 hours," he said. "My goal was to get to the top."
He almost made it. But, "I climbed up a wrong ledge and got stuck," Justin said. The teenager built a fire and used a kite he'd found to signal campers below. He heated up rocks to keep warm. "I was praying a little bit: `Don't let me die,' " he said
Rescuers were called out about 9:30 p.m. Monday. The team climbed toward the boy until about 3 a.m. Tuesday before settling on a ledge of its own. Sgt. Stan Eggen it was too treacherous to continue in the dark.
They continued the climb after daybreak, reaching Justin about 11 a.m. The team fitted Justin with a harness and ropes and slowly guided his rappel down the rocky face.
The LeFevres waited most of the day in the canyon until the team led Justin down the mountain. Except for some minor cuts and scrapes, the Independence High School student was unharmed.
"He's in better shape than the last time he went mountain climbing," Jenny LeFevre said. A fall during a hike about eight months ago tore open his knee.
Rock Canyon is one of Provo's most popular hiking and climbing areas.
It also can be one of the most dangerous for people who aren't prepared for the ruggedness of the terrain. Loose rock makes climbing in the canyon hazardous and treacherous. Officer Danny Cornell said the north side of the canyon is more dangerous than the south side.
Last year, the Provo Police Mountain Rescue team responded to 12 incidents involving stranded or lost climbers. Two hikers died last year.
Sgt. Stan Eggen, rescue team leader, offered some safety tips for would-be climbers.
- Don't go by yourself.
- Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back.
- Don't go beyond your hiking and climbing abilities.
- Take provisions such as food, matches and a flashlight.
- Wear proper hiking gear.
- Be off the mountain before dark.
- Remember: Climbing down is sometimes much harder than climbing up.
If you become stranded:
- Stay put.
- Light a signal fire.