Backpackers Abby Flantz and Erica Nelson were rescued after being lost for six days in the Denali National Park wilderness. The two women, who were in good condition and high spirits, used a cell phone to help searchers locate them and were reunited with their families Wednesday afternoon. See this site for videoclips showing the joyous reunion, interviews with the two rescued hikers, and comments by family members, the park's Publics Affairs Officer, the search Incident Commander, and others.
This is the second time in recent months that a heavily publicized SAR operation in a national park has yielded a happy outcome. On May 28, Grand Canyon National Park hikers Alan Humphrey and Iris Faraklas were rescued after spending 11 days in the canyon.
It was a good thing that Erica Nelson had her cell phone with her. Though she and Flantz were in a remote area with very spotty and intermittent service, Nelson was eventually able to get a call through to her mother and provide information that helped searchers locate and rescue them. (Nelson was told to switch to text messaging to save battery power.)
Do wilderness hikers like Nelson and Flantz become overconfident, plan less carefully, ignore obvious hazards, and take imprudent risks when they carry along cell phones or PLBs (personal locator beacons) that they might think of as an ultimate “safety net”? For discussion and commentary see this site.
Thousands of search and rescue (SAR) operations are conducted in the national parks every year. For interesting facts, statistics, and commentary, see Search and Rescue Trivia from the National Parks.
The National Park Service spends an estimated $4.3 million a year on SAR operations. Should rescued park visitors be billed for SAR services? For facts and commentary, see this site.