Utah's majestic mountains often reach out to those seeking an escape from the city, but that beauty belies the dangers awaiting unprepared hikers and climbers.
An average of two people die each year while hiking in Utah County mountains, according to police and search and rescue officials. Most of the mountain's victims are young adults out to enjoy a day in nature."People go into the mountains and don't realize the dangers. It's pretty, but there are a lot of dangers you have to be aware of or the mountains jump up and get you," said Sgt. Jay Colledge, Utah County Sheriff's liason with the county Search and Rescue Team.
Provo Police Chief Swen Nielsen said, "We have astonishingly beautiful canyons and they certainly ought to be enjoyed, but they can be enjoyed from the trail. Almost every time, someone is hurt because there is not enough respect for the terrain."
Without prior planning or training, a hike in the mountains may turn into tragedy.
Such was the case for Patrick Boyer, a 21-year-old Salt Lake man, who fell several weeks ago while climbing along the face of Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.
Boyer was free climbing a little more than halfway up the face with a friend when he slipped on a mossy rock and fell 60 feet.
He is among the few survivors of such an accident and remains in fair condition at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with head injuries, fractures to both legs and dislocated knees.
For many others, the story ends in death, as it did last fall for a Provo boy and a Brigham Young University student from Ogden. Both were climbing in Rock Canyon, above the Provo LDS Temple, when they fell to their deaths.
Michael Gonzalez, 14, fell 1,000 feet to his death Sept. 17 while hiking with a friend along the north face of Rock Canyon in the Squaw Peak area.
The body of Thomas Grover, 31, was discovered at the base of a 35-foot cliff Sept. 4. Grover apparently fell while traversing a terraced cliff with line that was unable to hold his weight.
A hiking accident last July claimed the life of a 13-year-old Boy Scout from Orem. He was hiking a short distance from his troop at Stewart Falls on Mount Timpanogos when he fell 50 feet and then slid another 75 feet down a steep slope.
No one has died in 1989 from hiking and climbing accidents, but this is the time of year when such incidents are likely to occur.
The days are warmer and brighter and more people tend to go hiking in shorts and tennis shoes. Before the day is over, they could be on the top of Mount Timpanogos and it could be snowing, Colledge said.
"Whenever classes begin at BYU, accidents seem to increase because many students have never been so close to the mountains and want to explore them," Nielsen said.
Most of the city's climbing deaths have occurred on the north wall of Rock Canyon and the cliffs above Y Mountain, said Provo Police Cpt. Duane Fraser, leader of the rescue team.
The Utah County Search and Rescue Team responds to about 8 to 12 calls a year with climbers and hikers in serious trouble.
Doug Hansen, professional mountaineer and leader of Utahns on Everest, advises people to use good judgment and never hike beyond their ability. "To err is human, but mountains seldom forgive," he said.
When a person can travel to the mountains and be at home, then he has acquired the skills needed for "wilderness citizenship," he said.
"When you hit that point, you know what to take with you and you have a real enjoyable experience. Before that, something that is quite enjoyable can turn into a serious situation. Many people don't realize that climbing back down is three times harder than going up."
Hansen said there should be at least three people in a hiking party. If something happens, one can stay with the injured while the other can go for help.
Hikers should also leave a schedule.