Search And Rescue

Anyone | Anytime | Anywhere

The Wasatch Back is a beautiful place adorned with a plethora of activities and destinations for the outdoor adventurer. Whether you’re a seasoned local or a new visitor to the area, you are likely to find yourself drawn to recreate in these great outdoors.

Unfortunately, a fun outdoor activity can quickly turn into an emergency situation – a snowmobile can tip, a person can become lost on a familiar hike or even be tossed from a raft as it plows through raging rapids. In these moments of panic people are wise to call 911 — they need help from the experts. They need Search and Rescue.

Search and Rescue, or SAR for short, has been a vital resource for the people of the Wasatch Back for well over 50 years. SAR covers all of Wasatch County and is responsible for over 1,200 square miles of nature’s playground.

The diversity of terrain and climate our environment presents requires this team to have to have an extensive skill set derived from intense training. Between training scenarios and actual emergencies, the Wasatch Back SAR teams receive over 100 calls a year. These calls require expertise in skills such as scuba diving, mountain climbing, swift water rescue, finding lost persons and medical aid. It’s no wonder their motto is “Anyone. Anytime. Anywhere.”

Captain Kam Kohler leads a team of 35 volunteers. That’s right — SAR is made up of volunteers. These 35 volunteers are people who — without notice — will desert their jobs, family gatherings, church meetings and their beds in the dead of night to search and to rescue. To top it off, they’re not even paid to do this.

This is a service they choose to do for their community. They sacrifice a huge amount of time, effort and sometimes even their lives to save the nature-loving people of the Heber Valley and the Wasatch Back.

I met with Captain Kohler and asked him if most of the calls they receive are for assisting visitors to the area — people who are just simply unfamiliar with the territory. His response surprised me. “Some are, but a lot are people who live here… They were under-prepared or overconfident.”

So what can we, as regular outdoor adventurers, do to prepare ourselves if things get dicey?

Valuable Advice

One important survival habit is to tell someone where you are going and actually go there. According to Kohler, when people diverge from planned locations and timelines it puts them at high risk. If you don’t return home when you said you would and family or friends call 911, SAR will begin searching the location they were given. If the location is incorrect, it will waste valuable time that could be the difference between life and death. With rafting season approaching I wanted to ask Captain Kohler about swift water rescues. He looked at me very seriously and said, “There is no reason to ever not have a life jacket.”

“In the case of white water you’ve got to be prepared for self-rescue. If you’re in a white water situation and you call Search and Rescue, it’s a bad day for somebody,” he explained. He went on to say that nobody comes out of heavy white water unscathed. “Even when we do our trainings, guys come out of that with big bruises on their legs and their backs because of rocks.

“That’s what creates the white water, it’s going over rocks. So you’re pin-balling over rocks and bouncing. Especially without a jacket, at least with a jacket you have a chance to float high and just catch the top of the rocks. In the case of a white water situation the most critical thing is flotation. If somebody is in the water get them flotation. The second thing to figure out is how to get them to safety.”

He explained that they need to get to the riverbank and get out as fast as possible. Depending on how far away from SAR’s facility the incident it is, and when the call is made, it will be a minimum of 10 minutes before a team arrives. While that timetable is incredibly impressive, a person can drown in much less time than that. The next time you plan a fun outdoor activity keep in mind the importance of preparing for the unexpected. This will help keep you safe, your loved ones safe and possibly even our brave volunteers at Search and Rescue safe.

If you would like to learn more about SAR or to make a donation towards SAR training and equipment, please contact Captain Kam Kohler at [email protected]

What stands 11,749’ high, has a heart, a saddle, an emerald, a shack, and some goats?

If you’ve been in Heber for even a short time, you’ll know the valley’s pride lies in the great mountain that sprawls to the west where the sun settles each night. Mount Timpanogos creates a portion of the eastern wall of the Wasatch Front. Often folks claim we, here in Heber, reside on the backside of the great Timpanogos. We’d like to beg their pardon. They happen to be discombobulated, not realizing that we have the front seat to Timp’s right side. Of all the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain Range, the majestic summit is second in height only to Mt. Nebo. Each breathtaking foot is covered in alpine flora, fauna, and crag, while crystal clean water from white peaks, burbles over as falls, and meanders to rivers and streams.

Through The Year

Spring is when the falls of Timp and their gushing runoff are at their prime. Mount Timpanogos Trailhead in Aspen Grove, accessed on State Route 92, is the entry point to three sets of breathtaking waterfall hikes. Timpanogos Falls is made up of an upper and lower set of falls. Visiting both is approximately a 2.5-mile round trip hike. Stewart Falls and Scout Falls are also great options for late spring hikes.

Summer is the best time to beat the heat and get to the heart of the mountain. Timpanogos Cave National Monument leads tours deep into the geologic Timpanogos Cave System. In the depths of the cavern is a large stalactite known as the “Great Heart” of Timpanogos. Legends tell of two hearts joined at death to become one that now lies deep in the mountain.

Summer is also a great time for ambitious hikers and trail runners to reach the peak. But don’t forget your jacket — even in the summer months, the windy summit stays nice and cool. The trek begins at either Aspen Grove or Timpooneke trail. It careens through Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, where you may choose to take it slower and camp overnight, remembering there are no fires permitted. Another fun choice is to depart early and squeeze the full excursion into one day. These hikes are where you’ll discover the emerald of Timp — Emerald Lake. Just as a horse’s saddle is sweeping in shape, Mount Timp’s saddle is a sweeping field of boulders where the trail to the peak converges with the ridgeline. Keep your eyes open for the mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife among the profusion of wildflower colors. Marking the summit is an old surveyor shack.

Fall brings a chill to the air, and our trees take center stage. As the bright blooms fade, the deep hues of autumn steal the show. Be sure to take a drive. Throw in a picnic and your camera to make a day of the fully-paved, 20 mile Alpine Scenic Loop. Head out before October passes and our snow closes portions of the loop for the winter.

Winter may offer the best views of Mount Timpanogos from a distance. Adventure junkies sometimes choose to summit Timp in the winter with an ice ax and crampons. If you enjoy snowmobiling or snow biking, Wasatch State Park grooms 72 miles of trail throughout the winter months. They are also home to the 2002 Olympic Site contracted by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. This venue allows for Nordic skiing, a tubing hill, and snowshoeing at the base of Timp. Those of you who don’t feel like competing with yetis or Sherpas may choose other ways to enjoy winters with Timpanogos. Relax while you wind leisurely around the base aboard a railcar of the Heber Valley Railroad. Are you an artist? Find a perch in town to paint to your heart’s delight. Or, simply take it easy and get cozy with a warm drink while enjoying the view from your favorite place.

Whatever the season Mount Timpanogos with its high summit, heart, saddle, emerald, shack, and goats, is definitely worth visiting — even if it’s only from your front porch as you watch the sun settle behind Timps peaks.

Hikes:

Timpanogos Falls
1.9 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Stewart Falls
3.4 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Scout Falls
4.2 miles |  moderate  |  leashed dogs allowed

Aspen Grove Timp Summit
15.7 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs and horses allowed

Timpooneke Timp Summit
12.8 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs allowed  |  $6 fee, pay at yourpassnow.com

For kids:

The Junior Ranger Program
Available at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Kids explore
the culture and natural history. There is an event every Saturday
at 10:00 am throughout the open season, May-early September.
Go to nps.gov/tica/learn/kidsyouth for more information.

Legend Of Timpanogos:

As with any good story, there are many variations to the Legend of Timpanogos. In fact, at least 12 recorded versions exist today. The legend is centered on the outline of a woman that can be seen in the peaks of the mountain, and the large stalactite called the “Great Heart” found inside the caves.

The legend is “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, featuring the Indian warrior Red Eagle and the beautiful Indian princess Utahna. While their exact roles and circumstances vary from version to version, the story goes that Utahna was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods to end the great drought. When she was about to jump off the cliffs, Red Eagle begged her not to end her life. Thinking Red Eagle was the great God of Timpanogos, Utahna went to the caves with him, and they fell in love.

One day, Red Eagle was injured by a wild animal — which proved he was human after all — so Utahna left to finish her sacrifice to the gods. After she jumped, Red Eagle found her and took her back to the caves, where it is believed their two hearts became one, forming the stalactite that is now called the Great Heart of Timpanogos. People say you can still see the outline of Utahna lying on top of the mountain.

(Courtesy of nationalparks.org)

For more information on Mount Timpanogos and Wasatch State Park visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain