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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
John Youngerman of Ohio talks about how he became lost while hiking in the Uinta Mountains.

PARK CITY — John "Giz" Youngerman credits keeping his wits and having the proper clothing for saving his life after spending two days lost near King's Peak when he became separated from his hiking party last Friday.

"I probably wouldn't have survived if I hadn't had the right clothing," Youngerman said, speaking to the media on Monday as his relieved wife watched.

A fairly experienced hiker, the 61-year-old retired auto mechanic from Springfield, Ohio, said he was not prepared for the difficulty of the Uinta Mountains. In Ohio, the highest hill is 1,000 feet, he said, but he was dealing with 12,000- to 13,000-foot levels. "It's a forsaken place," he said.

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said he wanted to use this happy outcome as an opportunity to stress to hikers and campers to be prepared — it may save your life.

Youngerman, who was visiting on vacation and camping in the area with friends, said he became separated from his hiking group when he fell behind and took a wrong turn. According to the sheriff's office, Youngerman was reported missing around 9 p.m. on Friday.

Youngerman said he was wearing pants and had a jacket and a windbreaker with him. He also had a pair of gloves and three pairs of socks, along with a water purifier.

As the sun set, the temperature plunged to the low 30s. "I have frost on my knees," he said. With his back against a log, he breathed into his shirt to protect his lungs from the stinging night air. He also had some crackers and two candy bars with him.

During the day, Youngerman said he tried to re-orient himself. "I had a compass, but if you don't know the terrain it's pretty much useless," he said. He soon found himself in an area known as Painter's Basin, which was a water-filled marsh. Slogging through muddy water was exhausting, he said, and soaked his socks and shoes. He said he hung on to one pair of dry socks, which he wore at night.

One thing he wished he had brought with him, Youngerman said, was a GPS device.

Edmunds said with a lot of people heading to the mountains this summer for recreation, his office wants to stress that being prepared is a matter of life and death, as is shown by the fact that the Uintas have claimed numerous people over recent years.

As he was trying to find his way out, Youngerman said one thing went through his mind. "I was thinking about my wife and my family and about the anxiety I've caused," he said.

His wife flew out to Utah to meet him after he was found.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com