Steamboat men rescue woman lost in Flat Tops for over 3 days

Jiji Oh, middle, visiting from Houston, Texas, was lost in the Flat Tops Wilderness for more than three days before running into Ned Skinner and Richard Grant, who gave her food and water and helped her get out of the area and back to her. Hotel.
Jiji Oh/Courtesy Photo

Steamboat Springs residents Richard Grant and Ned Skinner were fishing in a remote area of ​​the Flat Tops Wilderness off Dunckley Pass on Thursday, October 13. They had been at the creek for about an hour and the fish were biting like crazy.

Suddenly, the silence at their secret place was broken by a scream.

“A woman appeared on a hill 75 yards away, waving her arms and calling for help,” Grant said.

“We couldn’t really understand her well until she approached us and told us if we could help her,” Skinner said. “She was lost for three days and three nights and looked a little distressed.”

Skinner and Grant helped her cross the creek, but she was able to walk up the embankment on her own and back along a path to Grant’s car. They gave him water, Honey Stinger products and their lunch sandwiches.

The wife, Jiji Oh, was beyond grateful to see them. She had left Stillwater Reservoir on Monday October morning to hike the Devil’s Causeway and got lost. She had been alone in the Flat Tops for three days and three nights without food.

“I had the best peanut butter sandwich and a ham and cheese,” Oh said. “Without them, I might have died. … I started calling Ned and Richard angels, local heroes.

What started out as a day hike turned into an uphill battle to stay alive.

On her second day in Yampa Valley, visiting from her home in Houston, Texas, Oh decided to hike up Devil’s Causeway. The fitness instructor parked his rental car in Stillwater, ate a muesli bar, then embarked. Typically, a trip to the narrow and popular rock bridge ranges from six to 10 miles, depending on how one returns to Stillwater.

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However, Oh wasn’t sure how to get back. She didn’t turn back and remembered an old wooden sign for Trail 1119 but quickly lost her way after that.

“I didn’t know there was no sign, no one,” she said. “I am alone.”

Oh had done a lot of hiking when she lived in South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, but this was her first time exploring the mountains in the United States. She wore a windbreaker jacket, long-sleeved shirt, leggings and sneakers. However, she only brought a fanny pack with her wall, phone, and lip balm. Before she knew it, it was getting dark.

“The first night was very scary,” she said. “I heard about bears and wildlife in Colorado.”

Oh positioned herself on the side of a hill where she could see her surroundings and used her phone’s flashlight to ward off the animals, but it drained the battery. His shoes were wet from following a stream and the temperature dropped to around 30 degrees.

She was optimistic that she would find her way or help on the second day.

“I started walking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and by 7:30 p.m. it was getting dark and I was like, ‘Oh, another night, I have to stay,'” she said.

Oh was drinking water from portions of fast flowing streams, but had nothing to eat and was exhausted on the third day.

“I couldn’t believe I couldn’t get out of the mountains,” she said. “It was hours and hours, the same landscape. A few trees, lots of logs, streams everywhere. There are no signs and I’ve never really experienced this kind of wild mountains.

When hiking in New Zealand, there were more landmarks to help orient her and guide her if she ever got lost. But the Flat Tops were seemingly endless.

She used her skills as an endurance runner and yoga and spin instructor to maintain a mental attitude on the body, but after three long days she was struggling.

“I thought about the funeral. I thought about death,” Oh said. “Maybe if I died here, no one would find me. From time to time, it crossed my mind: ‘This is it. Who will be at my funeral? Who will cry for me? I just said, ‘There has to be a way. I have to walk, walk, walk.'”

She continued to follow the same creek and on the fourth day, Thursday morning, she encountered a pair of fly fishermen.

“I cried. I almost ran down the hill,” Oh said. “I said, ‘I’m so glad I ran into you. Can you help me?’ I cried. I burst into tears.”

There are 12 miles from Oh’s starting point to her rescue point, but she said she knows she’s walked more than that. His feet were black and blue from bruises and his legs were scraped from shoving through the brush to follow the stream.

“She was remarkably sane having been away for three days and three nights,” Skinner said.

Grant and Skinner drove over an hour and a half with Oh to her car in Stillwater. Skinner then drove her car back to her hotel in Steamboat, as he said she was unfit to drive with shaky legs and arms.

Grant had undergone Friends of the Wilderness training and felt equipped to help her even though her condition was worse. He too was amazed by Oh’s lucidity when their paths crossed.

Oh visited emergency care to make sure she was okay before flying home to Houston on Friday, Oct. 14, and said she planned to see a doctor again once there.

Despite a horrible first experience, Oh said she would definitely return to Steamboat and Flat Tops, although next time she vows not to go alone and to study the route before heading out.

“Steamboat has become very special,” Oh said. “It’s the people. It is memory and a story. I’ll be back.”

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