Utah hiker stuck chest-deep in hidden quicksand

Soft sand and mud warning sign
(Image credit: Getty)

A hiker in Utah had to be rescued last week after straying into an area of quicksand and finding themselves immobilized up to their chest. Cracks in the ground gave the impression that the land was dried out and stable, but it was in fact wet.

As Newsweek (opens in new tab) reports, the Bureau of Land Management has issued a warning after receiving a call from a walker stuck in sand at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (opens in new tab)

"Rangers patrolled the rockfall dam in Bull Valley Gorge after receiving a quicksand report from a hiker," the Bureau said in a statement. "The hiker said the quicksand was chest deep and shared that they would have been unable to extract themselves from the sand if alone."

Escaping quicksand

While the hiker in Utah was able to reach their phone and contact emergency services, that may not always be possible, and knowing how to escape quicksand could save your life.

If you step into quicksand, you'll find it's all but impossible to pull your foot out, and although you're unlikely to be completely submerged, you may find that you're unable to call for help, particularly if you're hiking alone. You could also be at risk of hypothermia, as the sand is often cold and wet even on a warm day, and  will sap your body heat.

"Nights are still cold in the canyons, but even during a warm day, wet sand can reduce body temperatures causing a serious exposure issue," said the Bureau of Land Management.

First of all, watch out for signs such as sandy terrain that looks rippled, or has water bubbling up to the surface. If you're not sure whether it's safe to proceed, using a trekking pole to probe the ground in front of you can help you avoid trouble.

However, it's not always possible to spot the danger ahead of time. If you do find your foot sinking, start by ditching as much weight as possible. If you're wearing a backpack, toss it onto solid land so you're lighter and can move more freely. Next, see if you can take a few steps and back out of it. If you lose a boot, that's not the end of the world.

It that fails, you can attempt to free your legs by leaning back so that your body weight is spread over a larger area and 'floating'. Keep your head up and stay calm, as this can take a long time. Take breaks so you don't get exhausted. When your legs are free, try rolling to the side, or make 'swimming' motions to move yourself toward solid land.

Cat Ellis
Editor

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).