Article updated 1:59 p.m. 7/23/2020
SPEARFISH, S.D. - A local college student was hiking mid-morning in Spearfish Canyon July 22 when she found herself stuck on a ledge. Spearfish Fire Department and Lawrence County Search and Rescue, in collaboration with Pennington County Search and Rescue attended the call and were able to safely extract the woman several hours later.
The woman was out hiking the upper trail of Botany Bay when she lost her footing and slid partway down a steep rock face in Spearfish Canyon unable to find a safe path. Nearby, Kathryn Jones and Sarah Richards were taking photos when they heard her cry for help.
Photo Left: Chief Ladson of Spearfish Fire Department yells up to communicate with the hiker as the Heavy Rescue team prepares.
The two witnesses attempted to hike higher on the trail to locate the hiker but were unable to. Communicating through yells over the wind, Jones and Richards were able understand the condition she was in, if she was alone, and if she needed 911.
Jones had limited service and was able to get a call out to emergency responders at 11:37 a.m. while Richards continued to search from ground level. "I was walking east along Spearfish creek when she finally spotted me," Richards said. "From there she was able to direct me to her location where Katie and I waited for the rescue team to arrive."
When the rescue team arrived just after noon, Jones was able to help them devise a plan because of her rock climbing history. "As soon as I saw her up there, I knew exactly where to hike to get up there, even though I had no equipment to get her down," she said.
Photo Left: Jones leads the Heavy Rescue team up a nearby trail to get closer to the hiker. Photo Right: Hiker was still 20-30 feet above the rescue team. The team was looking for the best way to retrieve her and decided to send two members with climbing experience up the ledge and a separate team on the other hiking trail to see if there would be a better advantage point.
The rescue team maneuvered their way up and across the ledge to make direct contact with the subject and better devise a plan for the descent.
Shortly after 1 p.m. assistance was requested and Pennington County Search and Rescue answered.
Pennington County commented on their Facebook, “While not seriously injured, the hiker's new location presented no options for egress without technical climbing gear. This was an 800 foot tall rock wall. The hiker was stuck 500 feet from the top, leaving 300 feet to level ground at the bottom. Eventually she was safely lowered 80 feet to a small landing that had access off the side of the cliff.”
The hiker returned to solid ground shortly after 4 p.m.
A note from the hiker, Haedyn Rhoades:
After her return to safety, local college student Haedyn Rhoades shared this TikTok using the #putafingerdown trend saying, "Put a finger down if you were going to go on a hike by yourself and you were on this trail, and then you saw a breakaway trail so you went on that trail and then you kept going on that trail until it vanished and it was so steep you didn't want to go back down so you thought, 'Okay, I'll just keep going trying to find the tail again," but you couldn't find the trail and you got lost and you decided to try to go down the mountain, back to the road and walk to your car, but as you were going down, there was a 15 foot cliff that you fell off and then your backpack caught on a tree and saved your life..."