Two hikers from Washington have shared a video showing how they escaped after becoming trapped by a wildfire while climbing a mountain. Steve Cooper and Matt Bishop decided to post the clip on YouTube so others can learn from their mistakes, and see the tech and skills they used to get back down safely.
As GeekWire reports, Cooper and Bishop decided to try climbing Baring Mountain on September 9, despite warnings of poor visibility due to smoke. One commenter on the video (which you can watch below) explained that such warnings are so frequent during the summer months, it's easy to dismiss them.
"I debated about posting this video online. I was afraid about all the criticism that I would get," Cooper said while introducing it. "I’m posting this video as an educational tool to try to point out all the mistakes that we made, which ended up putting our lives in danger.
"Hopefully this video can bring some awareness to everyone, so everyone doesn't make the same mistake we made."
After making it as far as the ridge, they could see the smoke, but didn't realize how far the fire had spread and assumed it had blown in from far away. They didn't spot the flames until they were almost at the summit. They abandoned their plan and began making their way down, but found their path blocked by flames. At the same time, the fire was closing in from the ridge above, leaving them stuck.
The pair called 911, but rescuers were unable to reach them safely, so they decided to try and make it back to the trailhead by heading back up and skirting around the edge of a wall. In the clip, visibility is clearly greatly reduced as the fire grows closer.
No helicopter help
Not knowing exactly where the fire was approaching from, Cooper and Bishop relied on GPS to find an alternative route and decided to make their way down a dry creek bed to a lake. Another attempt to call 911 proved fruitless; they were connected to dispatchers in another county who said they would send a helicopter if the men could provide GPS co-ordinates, but the fire was spreading so fast that they had to keep moving instead.
Having reached a sheer cliff, and clearly exhausted, the pair had to find yet another route and scramble down. At one point Bishop lost his footing and slipped, almost falling off a cliff, but managed to grab onto a tree after sliding several feet, and both men remained calm and kept moving, aiming for the lake, which they could still just about see.
Eventually they made it back to the trail and reached their vehicle. "We had determination, we wanted to stay alive and make it back to our families," Cooper said. "In the end, we were happy to be alive, This was a traumatic experience, and I hope no one else has to go through what we went through."
For more advice, see our guide wildfire safety: how to prevent and stay safe from fires.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).