A man who became lost for 24 hours while hiking on Colorado’s highest mountain ignored repeated phone calls from rescue teams because they came from an unknown number, authorities say.
The hiker was reported missing around 8pm on 18 October after failing to return to where he was staying, Lake county search and rescue said.
Repeated attempts to contact the man through calls, texts and voicemail messages went ignored, according to a statement released by the agency.
Five rescue team members were deployed at around 10pm to search “high probability areas” on from Mount Elbert but returned around 3am the following morning after failing to locate the missing hiker on the 4401 metre-high (14,440ft) peak.
A second team set out at 7am the next day to search areas where hikers “typically lose the trail” only to discover the man had returned back to his place of lodging about 9:30am.
The hiker told authorities he had lost his way around nightfall and “bounced around on to different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead” before finally reaching his car the next morning, about 24 hours after setting out on the hike.
Lake county search and rescue said the man reported having “no idea” anyone was out looking for him.
“One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognise the number,” the agency added.
“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!”
More than 32 hours were dedicated to the search. News that the hiker had ignored calls from rescuers prompted a flurry of furious responses from members of the public.
“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,” Lake county search and rescue responded over a Facebook post.
“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.”