Realizing that you’ve lost your way or that you’re in a helpless situation is one of the most harrowing situations imaginable. The haunting uncertainty surrounding your safety is almost impossible to shake, which is why so many people take the necessary precautions when they decide to venture on potentially dangerous hikes and the like.
Amber Kohnhorst loved spending time outdoors. The 25-year-old hiker took a vacation to Cane Beds, Arizona, where she planned to walk some scenic trails as well as volunteer at an animal shelter. But her plans drastically changed.
One minute, Amber was enjoying her hike, and the next, she found herself lying in a pool of blood. With no cell phone service and no visible way out of the canyon, she prepared for her fate…
When someone you love goes missing, your life completely changes. You spend countless hours worrying about their well-being and wondering if you’ll ever see them again. It’s a nightmare no one should ever have to endure. Sadly, it was one that the parents of a 25-year-old named Amber Kohnhorst had to face after their daughter went missing on what was supposed to be an exciting trip to Arizona…
On May 20, 2016, Amber arrived in Cane Beds, a small settlement in Mojave County, Arizona, after a long 1,500-mile journey. She was enjoying a week vacation from her cardiovascular surgical position at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Amber made arrangements to stay at an Airbnb in Cane Beds. She loved the outdoors, and she did plenty of hiking in Minnesota, so she was thrilled to make the journey to a new place to explore. She hoped to spend a week in Cane Beds and then volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary right across the border in Utah. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened…
Amber couldn’t contain her excitement about Arizona. As soon as she arrived, she settled into her room and immediately headed out for a hike. She had never seen landscapes and cliffs like the ones in Cane Beds.
Amber knew heading off into the wilderness alone wasn’t advisable. She’d heard stories of people getting injured or trapped, but the wilderness there was just too gorgeous, and Amber decided she would take an easy trail to avoid hazards. Based on a recommendation, she headed to the Rose Cliffs Trail to begin her adventure.
Because Amber was an experienced hiker, it took her only about an hour to ascend nearly 600 feet. She stopped to snap some photos of the landscapes and wildlife, and then she decided to turn around and head home for the night.
On her way down the mountain, Amber spotted something she didn’t notice on the way in: an escarpment of sandstone jutting up into the sky that she knew would offer stunning views of her surroundings. So, Amber started to climb it…
Almost an hour later, Amber finally reached the 800-foot summit. She was in awe at the view of Zion National Park in the distance. But, after that wore off, she realized she was standing on the precipice of a towering cliff, and she had no idea how to get down…
Amber knew that panicking would do her no good whatsoever, so she started to think. She could literally see her end point from way up on the 800-foot cliff, so she tried to search for an alternative route down the rock.
She tried multiple routes, but each one led her to a dead end with a sheer drop beneath it. She knew she shouldn’t panic, but it was impossible not to; she was trapped, and she had no idea how to get down.
Amber tried calling 9-1-1 on her cell phone; naturally, there was absolutely no service on the mountain. She knew her only way out would be to carefully traverse the steep descent. But not long after she began her climb down, she slipped…
Amber woke up almost an hour later; she was lying in a pool of blood, her head was throbbing, and her body was covered in swollen bruises. She still had no signal on her phone, and she realized she was trapped in a pit next to the cliff she was just standing on. She needed immediate help, but the only people that knew she went for a hike were her Airbnb hosts. Amber was terrified.
She had barely any supplies with her, but she did have an emergency whistle. Knowing it was her only hope, she blew into it over and over again, desperately hoping someone would hear her distress calls. Unfortunately, no one did, and she was forced to spend the night in the freezing Arizona temperatures.
When morning came, Amber found the strength to start slowly moving again. Everything ached, but she knew if she stayed put, she’d die. She tried climbing through a narrow opening, but a 30-foot drop on the other side quickly put an end to her plan. Completely dispirited, she started typing one final text to her parents…
Amber was completely out of water at that point, but with all the strength she had left in her depleted body, she managed to climb 50 feet into a shaded area to avoid the scorching Arizona sun. There, with no other options, she started to pray.
While all this was happening, Amber’s Airbnb hosts noticed she never returned from her initial hike. They alerted the local sheriff, and the entire Cane Beds community came together to search for her for nearly 10 hours.
Almost 28 hours after Amber began her journey on the Rose Cliffs Trail, she heard the sound of a chopper. She tried blowing into her whistle, but she was exhausted and could barely make a sound with it. The chopper passed over her several times before the rescuers finally spotted her. Finally, Amber knew she was going to make it out alive.
Rescuing Amber was a difficult process. She was trapped in an area that wasn’t accessible by helicopter. But one rescuer managed to rappel down to her and hoist her away from the cliff face. Then, they safely secured her in the chopper and flew to the nearest hospital.
Amber was treated by a team of dedicated doctors who did everything in their power to heal her. Although dehydrated and battered, she was alert and responsive. She reread the final text she wrote to her mother and father and started to cry. It read, “I’m sorry. I’m trying to blow my whistle. I’ve fallen.”
After doctors treated her, they sent her to the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, for a more thorough examination. Amber cracked her spine in several places, broke her pelvis, and nearly shattered her nose. To this day, she’s still recovering from her injuries, but she does intend to visit the site again. This time, however, she’ll bring along some company.
This is why you never go hiking alone. No matter how much experience you have, freak accidents occur, and not every one of them ends with a successful rescue.
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