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Meadow at junction of Long Lake/Middle Fork of Weber Trail.

Lost In The Uintas
The Tale of Two Hikers

Written By: Shane Burrows

          The following story is based upon speculation of the known facts. The subsequent story was compiled from various interviews, news conferences, Associated Press news releases, local news releases, personal experience in the area and other sources.

The Story:
          On the morning of September 8, 2003 two women set out for what was supposed to be an enjoyable hike in the Uinta Mountains. The women were Carole Wetherton, 58, of Panacea, Florida and her daughter Kim Beverly, 39, of Tucker, Georgia. The women were enjoying a vacation in Park City and rented a Jeep Grand Cherokee for transportation.

          The pair drove 50 miles from their Park City condominium to the Crystal Lake Trailhead located in the Uinta Mountains. The Uinta Mountains are Utah's highest mountain range. Trails in the area start at over 10,000 feet and nearby peaks soar to over 13,000 feet. The only paved road in the area is usually snowbound until early July.

          The women were in good physical condition and were experienced hikers. But being from the eastern seaboard they did not understand the changing weather conditions and ferocity of a storm at over 10,000 feet.

          A U.S. Forest Service Ranger who met the women near the trailhead warned them that they weren't dressed warmly enough for the high altitude and the rapidly changing weather conditions. But the temperature was 50 degrees and the skies didn't appear threatening. The women had only a short hike in mind and continued on toward the popular Long Lake.

Map where hikers were found.          The clouds came in very quickly that afternoon and the foul weather hit hard. The Trial Lake weather station recorded rain and sleet. The temperatures dropped to 33 degrees. The weather remained wicked for the next two days. It stormed for 48 hours with temperatures dipping to 29 degrees and leaving several inches of snow blanketing the area.

          Wetherton and Beverly were not wearing warm jackets, they were not carrying any survival gear and had no protection from the rain. They carried only a few small personal items such as lip balm, a camera and a first aid kit. The women soon found themselves soaked to the skin. As the pair attempted to return to the trailhead they became disoriented. Their confusion stemmed from the lowering clouds and changing vistas. Mount Watson is an obvious landmark, but it appears much different from Long Lake than it does from the trailhead. And at the trail junction in question, about a one-hour hike from the Jeep, the head of Long Ridge looks much like Mount Watson does from the trailhead.

          The women become further disoriented as they trudged down the rugged canyon that bears the headwaters of the Weber River, believing Mount Watson was to their right, when in reality it was Long Ridge. This error in navigation forced the pair dangerously off course to the north.

          In the Uintas, there's plenty of water, fish and edible plants, but there's no way to fend off the cold if one isn't dressed for it and can't start a fire. In September, the mountains can offer up balmy daytime temperatures that plummet when darkness descends.

          Having lost the trail in the Weber River drainage and with rain changing to snow, the women sought refuge and built a crude shelter using pine boughs and a natural rock outcropping. The women soon realized an oversight that would cost them everything - they had no matches or lighter to start a fire.

          Hypothermia occurs when the body loses more heat than it generates, and the condition can be fatal. The pair could survive in the dropping temperatures if they could start a fire to stay warm and dry their clothing. But shivering and without means to make a fire, their core body temperatures began dropping, and eventually they sank into a hypothermic state and died.

Long Lake with Long Ridge beyond. Sign at junction that lost hikers never found.

          The women had not told anyone of their hiking plans. No one knew where they were going and when they were to be expected back. Wetherton and Beverly were not missed until September 13th, five days after the pair became lost. The first sign that something was amiss was when the women failed to make contact with their ride home at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. It took anther day until the women's vehicle was located at the Crystal Lake Trailhead. By this time the women's fate had been sealed.

          Despite a valiant effort by Search and Rescue teams Wetherton and Beverly were not located before winter snowstorms buried the high Uintas under ten to twenty feet of snow. By early summer Search and Rescue teams were back in the area attempting to discover what had become of the missing women. On June 24, 2004 their remains were located.

Related Links:
Long Lake Route Information
Wall Lake Route Information
Circle of Friends - Long Lake (Members Only)
Circle of Friends - Wall Lake (Members Only)

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