"One missed step can be your last" – officials warn of the dangers of hiking after man plunges 600 feet to his death

Mount Wilson and the San Juans
The tragic accident over the July 4 holiday underscores the intrinsic dangers of alpine hiking (Image credit: nick1803)

The July 4 weekend is always a busy one for mountain rescue teams and in Colorado, a deadly hiking accident prompted fresh warnings from officials about the many dangers of hiking.

According to a Facebook post by Silverton Medical Rescue, the tragic incident took place on Thursday, July 4 when a man fell 600 - 800 feet off the ridgeline of Snowdon Peak, a 13er in the San Juan mountains near Silverton. The 25-year-old man was reportedly visiting the state from Cookeville, Tennessee and was day hiking with two males and three females.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Department received the 911 call about the fall in the afternoon and dispatched search and rescue at 4:09 p.m. 

"Silverton Rescue members along with Flight for Life medics responded via helicopter and made contact with the party at around 5:45 pm and the patient was declared deceased at that time, despite the best effort of the victim’s hiking partners," says Tyler George, director of the SMRT.

"The rescue team worked until dark, at which time recovery efforts were suspended and the mission was completed the following morning.”

The five remaining hikers were physically unharmed and extracted from the scene by rescue teams, who say their efforts were aided by an unusual lack of afternoon thunderstorms in the area last week.

first aid kit for camping

The five remaining hikers were physically unharmed and extracted from the scene by rescue teams (Image credit: Getty)

Despite the good weather and lack of errors by the group, officials say it underscores the intrinsic dangers of hiking, particularly in such a remote area where the trails can involve climbing and feature a lot of loose rock.

“The mountains are dangerous. If you are coming to the San Juans to recreate, you really need to have a strong skill set and understand the risks you are putting yourself in," warns San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad.

"Not that there was anything wrong done by this group in this incident, it was a group of young hikers climbing a peak that is not a super difficult peak, but one missed step can be your last one.”

Though accidents can happen at any time, it's important to curb your risk by researching your route and hiking within your ability. Carry safety tools such as a map and compass, first aid kit, emergency blanket or shelter and satellite communicator. Always tell someone where you are going, stick together and don't be afraid to turn around early if the trail is more challenging than you are prepared for.

According to the Climb 13ers website, the six-mile out-and-back trail to Snowdon Peak is a mostly Class 2 hike with some brief Class 3 exposed areas.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.