Get Out There

Hikers Rescued with iPhone Feature

Many people complain about their phones having too many bells and whistles. It’s true that cellphones have gotten bogged down with a lot of features many of us don’t want. And those features can add to the price. Folks find themselves saying that they just want a “basic phone.” But, thankfully, 10 hikers didn’t have just a basic phone.

A group of 10 hikers, aged 16 to 18, got stuck for about three hours on the trails of Santa Paula Canyon in Los Padres National Forest in Southern California. They weren’t properly dressed, didn’t have enough water and didn’t have adequate lighting.

According to Deputy Mackenzie Spears of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the hikers simply weren’t prepared. “Most had t-shirts and shorts. There were multiple water crossings, and they needed to scramble,” meaning climb over steep terrain with rocks.

The weather was in the 60s, and t-shirts and shorts wouldn’t cut it. Thankfully, their rescuers met them with food, water and supplies to get them back to the trailhead.

While the teens were unprepared, they had an iPhone with Apple’s SOS feature. The feature lets phones connect to satellites, even when there is no Wi-Fi or phone coverage available to call or text emergency services. The teens called for help around 8 pm when they realized they were lost. Search and rescue volunteers found them at about 11:15 pm on the Last Chance trail. None of the teens needed medical attention, and they made it back to the trailhead by 2:40 am.

The Santa Paula Canyon trail is six miles and has an elevation gain of more than 3,700 feet. The Last Chance trail connects to it and is another seven miles. The trails had low visibility and bad erosion from recent heavy rain.

The guardians of the hikers had reached out to the sheriff’s department when their kids hadn’t come home. They met their kids at the trailhead.

Fourteen years ago, Charley Shimanski, vice president of the Mountain Rescue Association, said, “[Satellite beacons] are a valuable tool, but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for common sense.”

That’s true; satellite beacons should be a last resort, not your first line of defense. But teenagers don’t always have the best common sense. It’s incredible that in 14 years, satellite beacons have gone from cutting edge to being embedded in phones. While we understand the desire for a basic phone, we’re glad these hikers had an iPhone with SOS so that they could all get home safe and sound!

Banner image: Search and rescue team helped missing hikers across rough terrain. Via Ventura County Sheriff’s Office

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