Deaths Near "The Wave" Formation in Arizona Prompts New Sign, More Warnings by BLM

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The Wave
A new sign and more safety warnings are coming from the Bureau of Land Management following the deaths of three hikers this summer near "The Wave" formation near the Arizona-Utah border.

Following an analysis of the tragedies, the BLM says today in a news release that several steps will be taken immediately. They include:

* A new sign promoting safety that will be installed at the Wire Pass Trailhead. The trailhead is considered the "gateway" to hikes toward The Wave and Buckskin Gulch.

* More safety info about the area on BLM websites and a video.

* Translation of safety and information brochures into the major languages of foreign visitors.

More strategies could be forthcoming to prevent deaths in the Paria Canyon Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, particularly the Coyotes Buttes area near The Wave, the BLM says.

The BLM response falls short of the wishes of some outdoor enthusiasts who believe the agency should grant more permits to hikers in cooler months.

The latest death occurred on Monday, July 22, when young mother Elisabeth Bervel of Mesa succumbed to apparent heat stroke on the way to see The Wave and suffered a heart attack. Earlier in July, an elderly couple from California died of apparent heat-related causes while hiking in the same area.

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Elisabeth Bervel, 27, died of apparent heat-related causes in July while hiking to see The Wave in northern Arizona.

More than 48,000 people applied for 7,300 available permits last year, according to a July 24 article in the Los Angeles Times.

The shortage of permits encourages inexperienced or under-prepared hikers to brave the trail all summer, some believe.

But limiting the number of people who want to visit a highly popular area also reduces damage to a fragile ecosystem. And allowing more people to visit in the winter won't necessarily discourage people from hiking in the summer.

Another option would be to allow even fewer people to hike to The Wave in the summer -- protect people from themselves, in other words.

We prefer the "Mountains Without Handrails" type of ethics of the Grand Canyon federal park, which does not stop people from hiking on hot days -- even though the policy means some hikers won't make it.


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7 comments
salmo60
salmo60

A tragic death but lets be brutally honest about this death. This couple was totally unprepared for this hike. They got lost on a 3 hour hike? Where was their GPS unit? Topo maps"Where the was high energy food, water and more important Gatorade or a similar drink? My wife and I hike Southern Utah a lot and have done "The Wave" and in 5 years of hiking Utah only ran low on water once, at the end of a 8 hour hike in the back country. No mater how long the hike, the first thing is preparation, preparations and more preparation. 

The wave

snowboardingman1234
snowboardingman1234

@salmo60 Couldn't agree more.  I also think there should be more stringent requirements for permits.  In WA when you apply for a permit to hike Mt. Rainer you must prove you have the physical capabilities to commandeer such a trek.  Should be the same down here, I mean look at her picture.  No one can honestly tell me she was physically active enough to do an extreme hike into the desert.  If you are a novice hiker stick closer to civilization and leave more passes for others who devote their time/energy on a regular basis.

salmo60
salmo60

@snowboardingman1234 @salmo60 We did a trek part way up Rainer last year and it kicked my ass. I though I was in better condition, oh hell no. What drives me up the wall and I am not trying to be arrogant, is these "tourist" hikers/trekker's who think "oh it's just a walk what could go wrong". Judging from her picture. she was not in good physical shape. Physical exertion plus the heat was a recipe for disaster.

salmo60
salmo60

@JohnQ.Public 

I am well aware of the deaths on Mt. Rainer, Including the Ranger that died last year a short time before we did the hike. I have both sympathy and empathy for all those who died there. 

I have more humility than you know, I could have just as easily said that the Rainer hike was a celebration of me being Cancer free for 4 years and gone on about that, but that's not relevant. I confess that people some times are put off by my bluntness, however folks know how I feel quickly. 

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

@Salmo60 How about this tidbit from http://www.backpacker.com/blogs/238:  "The Paradise Glacier to Camp Muir dayhike attracts scores of hikers and doesn't require any technical skills, but unpredictable weather can change the game severely, even for the well-prepared. All three hikers are described as experienced mountaineers, and two had summited Rainier before." 

Yet one hiker still died that day in April 2012.  Accidents happen.  Even the most experienced hikers and climbers can have an error in judgment, become incapacitated or be surprised by conditions.  A little empathy, understanding and humility goes a long way.

salmo60
salmo60

@JohnQ.Public "Arrogance" and being a "sanctimonious pontificator" ? Not really! I pointed of the obvious that this woman should have not been hiking "The Wave" because she/they did not know or understand the intrinsic danger of hiking an area like that. I have some empathy but to be completely honest, it is only a small amount. Why?, because I have seen way too many of the "tourists" hikers lost in the wilderness with out the means to survive. There are books and websites about hikes/treks that tell people about the difficulty of a particular hike and what to bring with you in order to survive. We hiked Rainer on July 5, 2013. Our preparation stated January 1, 2013, doing Camelback Mt. on a twice weekly basis and 3 days in the gym weight training. We also had enough presence of mind to stop half way up the mountain because we both realized going any further would have suicide. A simple phrase, "know your limits" is a good mantra to follow. Her death was not "an error in judgment", it was a complete lack of knowledge of the area they were in and lack of preparation. 

My feelings are not any different about consumers of alcohol or tobacco either. Drink away and smoke away, you are still poisoning your body. That JQP, is pontification! See you at the summit!

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter

What drives me up the wall is when someone makes an error in judgment and pays for it with their life and a roomful of santimonious pontificators can't seem to find the tiniest bit of empathy.  I wonder if you'd have the same arrogance, salmo60 if you had to be airlifted off Rainier (I assume that's actually the mountain you two are referring to) after it kicked your ass because YOU weren't in as good a shape as you thought you were.  Three people are dead and paid for their errors in judgment with their lives, but feel free to pile on. 

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