MOUNT TIMPANOGOS — It made the difference between five minutes and eight hours, going home that evening or spending the night perched on the side of a mountain.
For Carla Goodman, LDS Hospital's new hoist rescue system made a world of difference last Thursday when it plucked her off Mount Timpanogos, where she was stranded above a sheer cliff. Surrounded by loose shale, Goodman would have had to wait at least eight hours for ground crews to get to her the next day.
"I'm very blessed," said Goodman, a Brigham Young University biology student.
Thursday marked the first time a person has survived following a rescue using the hoist system. The service allows a paramedic to be lowered by helicopter to secure a victim in a harness so the craft can fly to a safe landing zone.
The first two hoist rescues were successful in the past two months since the program was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, but both of the victims died from the injuries that necessitated the rescues in the first place.
The hospital's hoist system is the first and only civilian-operated program to be certified in the United States, said Jess Gomez, LDS Hospital spokesman.
"I was happy to see them there; it's a great thing," said Goodman, who spoke at a press conference about her rescue and the dangers of hiking Monday on the hospital's helipad.
She and fellow student Emily Miller, 20, were hiking Timpanogos to study ants when they said they got in over their heads. They hit the summit about 3:40 p.m. and started making their way down but got off the trail. About one hour later, Goodman came to a point where she got stuck. Miller scaled her way down toward Emerald Lake and ran into two other hikers with a cell phone.
The Utah County Sheriff's office got the call at about 7:30 p.m. and immediately called LifeFlight, said Sgt. Tom Hodgson. Fortunately, Miller had GPS coordinates telling approximately where the two were when the problem occurred, and Goodman stayed where she was, which turned out to be above Hidden Lake at an elevation of 10,680 feet.
"I was doing everything I could think of to stay calm," Goodman said.
Still, it took crews about 1 1/2 hours to locate her, said LifeFlight paramedic K.D. Simpson. But once they did, at about 9:10 p.m., the rescue lasted about 5 minutes total. Just enough light was left for the hoist rescue not to be postponed until Friday morning. The helicopter flew to the Aspen Grove campground, where it landed with Goodman having gotten only a few scratches and a sunburn.
Goodman and the LifeFlight crew had some advice for others to prevent similar predicaments over the Fourth of July holiday.
"People need to stick to the trails, that's for sure," Simpson said. "(They should) tell their family and friends where they're going."
In the high temperatures, hikers should also keep hydrated and have supplies to last them through the night, Simpson said, because they can find themselves in trouble quickly. Hodgson added that hikers should never travel alone.
A fourth hoist rescue near Ogden Sunday also was successful, and the victim was expected to be fine.