Hiker Lost for 24 Hours Ignored Rescuer Phone Calls Because 'Didn't Recognize the Number'

A hiker who was missing for more than 24 hours on Colorado's highest mountain ignored repeated phone calls from a search and rescue team because they came from an unknown number, it has been revealed.

As first reported by The Sacramento Bee, Lake County Search and Rescue found their efforts to locate a hiker lost on Mount Elbert on Monday, October 18, significantly hindered after the individual failed to respond to multiple calls.

According to a statement posted to Facebook by Lake County Search and Rescue, the hiker had set off at 9 a.m. but had not returned by 8 p.m. that evening.

After several attempts to contact him by phone, five Lake County Search and Rescue team members were deployed at around 10 p.m. to search "high probability areas" around Mount Elbert.

They failed to locate the hiker and returned back to their base at around 3 a.m. the next day, with a second search team made up of three search and rescue members picking up the search at 7 a.m.

At around 9:30 a.m. it was reported that the man "had returned to their place of lodging."

The hiker told the authorities they had lost the trail around nightfall and had spent the subsequent hours searching for it before finally reaching their car.

They had no idea a search and rescue operation had been launched to try and locate them.

"One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn't recognize the number," Lake County Search and Rescue said.

"If you're overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a search and rescue team trying to confirm you're safe!"

A total of 32.5 man hours were dedicated to the search.

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Lake County Search and Rescue did offer up a defense of the hiker's actions.

"Please remember that what seems like common sense in hindsight is not obvious to a subject in the moment when they are lost and panicking," they said.

"In Colorado, most folks who spend time outdoors have a good understanding of the search and rescue infrastructure that is there to help them, but this is not the case nation-wide."

Newsweek has contacted Lake County Search and Rescue for comment.

The incident comes just a few weeks after a climber was found dead in Colorado, with authorities later determining the man was "free soloing," or climbing without equipment, at the time of the incident.

The U.S. is home to an incredible array of breathtaking hiking trails—but hiking is not without its risks. In Utah, a hiker was discovered dead at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff in Big Cottonwood Canyon, having gone missing from Lake Blanche a day earlier.

A call from an unknown number.
Stock image of an unknown caller and Mount Elbert - rescuers attempting to reach a hiker who had been missing 24 hours had their efforts thwarted when they failed to answer their phone. Rafael Abdrakhmanov/m-kojot/Getty