Belgian hiker dies in southern Utah’s extreme heat
KANE COUNTY — Extreme heat took the life of a Belgian man who was hiking in a famous spot along the Utah-Arizona border.
The Belgian tourist and his 16-year-old son were returning from “the Wave” when the father became disoriented and wanted to go the wrong way.
Kane County Sheriff’s deputies say the heat got to Cristophe Pochic, 49. The son went for help at the trailhead, but when he returned, Pochic had disappeared.
BLM workers found his body last night.
Deputies say Pochic had no health issues and carried water, but they urge hikers to go and return earlier in the day when it’s cooler.
Permits are required to hike the Wave, which is a three-mile hike originating in Utah and ending in Arizona (six miles round-trip). Only 20 are granted for each day – ten online and ten in person. Hikers from all over the world come to southern Utah for a chance to see it in person.
However, the hike has become famous for its dangers as well as its beauty. In 2013, KSL reported the Bureau of Land Management, which manages Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, which includes the Wave, was considering whether to add signs or other trail markers to the remote back-country trail. In extreme heat conditions, if a hiker becomes disoriented on the slickrock, the six miles can become much longer.
“Stuff like signage presents an issue,” Kevin Wright of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management told KSL’s John Hollenhorst at the time. “It is a wilderness, and we do try to preserve that backcountry experience.”
Veterans who have hiked the Wave before say it can be easy to get confused and lost, especially on the way back. Hikers are given instructions about what to expect and how much water to take. The BLM also has a safety brochure for the Wave which is translated into multiple languages.
Veteran hikers to The Wave said it’s relatively easy to get confused on the slickrock, especially on the return trip. Some hikers have said they found their own methods for making sure they don’t get lost.
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