Dozens of hikers saved in organs
LAS CRUCES – The Las Cruces Fire Department Technical Rescue Team – as well as representatives from Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue, the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office and the New Mexico State Police – helped save a group of 24 hikers who were separated, disoriented and stranded in the Organ Mountains on Sunday evening.
Shortly after 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 16, the LCFD Tech Rescue Team learned that a group of hikers from El Paso, Texas, had separated from each other in a rather ambitious attempt to climb The Needle, one of the most difficult climbs in the Organ Mountains. . The Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police had previously been called to help locate the hikers.
The Las Cruces fire has learned that the group of 24 hikers, ranging from teens to adults in their 60s, began the guided hike to The Needle at 4 a.m. on Sunday. Hikers varied widely in age and trail experience. During the hike, several group members fell behind in small groups. Some of the smaller groups then split up on different trails and then became disoriented. Hikers stranded after the sun went down and couldn’t find their way out of the mountain. The hikers made several calls to 911, prompting the search and rescue mission.
The Bureau of Land Management allowed rescuers to take a utility all-terrain vehicle to the National Monument grounds using the Modoc Trail. A DASO deputy located the injured woman along the trail when the UTV, along with three LCFD paramedics and an MVSAR volunteer, arrived. The 47-year-old was injured and could not move on her own. She was whisked off the mountain in a Stokes basket and transported to Memorial Medical Center around 4 a.m., nearly 24 hours after the group began their hike. His injuries are not life threatening.
Other search and rescue personnel located the remaining hikers, at various stages of descent, along the La Cueva trail. These hikers were escorted to the start of the La Cueva trail. Several hikers had relatively minor injuries, mostly scrapes and bruises, and some complained of dehydration.
The LCFD Technical Rescue Team and the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue Team train together several times throughout the year and often use their expertise for mountain rescues. So far, in 2021, the two teams have worked together on no less than three missions in the Organ Mountains.
The LCFD suggests following these and other safety tips:
- Know your abilities and the terrain you will be hiking on.
- Plan your hike carefully and consider weather reports, the expected duration of your hike, and other conditions you may encounter during your adventure.
- Never hike or backpack alone.
- Keep groups together unless it is absolutely necessary to separate them.
- Follow all signs and avoid straying from established trails.
- Take a fully charged cell phone or satellite phone in case of an emergency. Avoid draining the battery of a cell phone by abusing the function of the camera.
- Take a flashlight and extra batteries.
- Let a friend or relative know where you are going and when you plan to return. If you haven’t returned at the appointed time, they should know how to contact the authorities.
- Take plenty of water and food to support you during the trek.
- Keep in mind that warm daytime temperatures and relatively high elevations burn off energy quickly.
- Wear appropriate attire for the trek. It’s best to dress in layers that can be easily removed – or added – depending on the conditions.
- Wear an appropriate hat or headwear.
- Wear comfortable hiking boots or shoes suitable for the terrain to be covered.
- Be aware of changing weather conditions and the potential for flash flooding from rains that occur upstream of your location.
- Beware of snakes which are more active in hot weather and when daytime temperatures rise. Snake bite victims should seek help immediately.
- Beware of wild animals known to frequent the Organ Mountains and other nearby areas: bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, deer, and African oryx. Never approach or attempt to handle a wild animal.
- If you are hiking with a dog, consider their needs and the safety requirements for the hike.
- Dispose of trash properly and use the motto “Pack it up, take it away” to help keep wild areas intact.
Information from the Las Cruces fire department.