When winter gives way to spring, hikers head for the mountains above Provo for some fun in the sun.
"The hills up there are crawling with people," said Provo Police Lt. Stan Eggen.Eggen should know. He and the mountain rescue team have headed for the hills three times the past week to render aid to injured hikers. A Brigham Young University student became stranded above "Y" mountain last week, and two others have fallen in Rock Canyon since last Sunday, including one Saturday afternoon.
Calvin Weight, 19, tumbled 20 feet when a rock he grabbed broke loose about three-fourths of the way to Squaw Peak. He was climbing without mountaineering gear, Eggen said.
Provo police rescuers and paramedics stabilized Weight before a helicopter took him to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where he was treated for injuries to his face, arm and leg.
Many of the hikers are college students who get in over their head. Some are ill-prepared for a day in the mountains, wearing only T-shirts and shorts. They also typically lack ropes and other safety equipment.
"Most people go out on a hike. Then they think, `Hey, I can climb this.' And they can, but they just can't get down," Eggen said. "It's just the way our bodies are constructed. Our eyes are at one end."
Eggen didn't fault young people for wanting to rid themselves of cabin fever and enjoy the sunny weather. "I did the same thing when I was kid," he said.
On Thursday, BYU student Paul Krogue got stuck on the cliffs above the "Y" mountain after setting out on an early morning hike. He was suffering from hypothermia, exhaustion and dehydration when rescuers reached him.
Eggen said altitude sickness sets in quickly above 6,000 feet, especially for people who aren't used to the height.
People out on a day hike should at least carry water and a jacket, Eggen said. "Just those two things would make a horrendous difference," he said.
Eggen said 99 percent of hikers make it up and down without problems.
Rock Canyon is one of Utah Valley's most popular hiking and climbing area. Most mountaineers hit the warmer north face, although the freeze-thaw cycle leaves the terrain less stable than the south face. Fatalities occur more frequently on the north side than they do in other parts of the canyon, Eggen said.
Reaching injured or stuck hikers on the north side is even treacherous for the 12-member rescue team because it can't get climbing anchors to stay in the ground, he said. The south face is colder, but the rock is more stable.
Hiking injuries are common in the foothills and mountain above Provo in the spring. Eggen said they're happening earlier this year than the past two or three because of the warm weather. He expects the rescue team will be out again soon.
"I'm going to keep my gear in the car," Eggen said.