Lost hikers spend night on mountain near North Bend

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 6:12 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 25 at 10:49 AM

Five hikers spent the night in the west foothills of the Cascade Mountains after they became lost on a day hike.

The hikers came down off of Mailbox Peak, East of North Bend, Monday morning, unharmed. A search and rescue team escorted them to safety after the long, cold night on the mountain.

"We are glad to be down," said Ace Butler, one of the stranded hikers, moments after he reached the trailhead. "The rescuers were awesome and we're really grateful."

King County Sheriff's deputies said trouble began when dusk settled on the group of six hikers, all from Oake Harbor. They became lost and then separated during their descent.

"We've hiked this trail before and wanted to show a couple of friends who had never been on it," said Chuck Allen. "Pretty much got distracted...we went on a trail -- at least we thought it looked like one -- and it never happened to be one."

The only hiker to reach the trailhead Sunday night was Nilo Bernardo and his 10-month old baby girl, Aubrey. He notified search and rescue teams when his group didn't return.

"They were right behind me, but then I turned around and I couldn't find them,' said Bernardo.

Bernardo stayed in the parked car at the trailhead and helped deputies communicate with the stranded group.

"I was in contact with my friends," he said, "at first with cell phone, but when the batteries started to get low, I would honk to communicate."

Deputies were able to pinpoint the hikers' location using cell phone GPS. Deputy Peter Linde said he spoke to the hikers and they were all fine, just tired and waiting to get off the mountain.

"Mailbox Peak is a very difficult trail," said Deputy Linde, "even experienced hikers can have a hard time, because it is steep, muddy and the trail markings can be hard to follow, especially if they were coming down at dusk."

According to the Washington Trails Association, Mailbox Peak reaches an elevation of 4,926 feet.

Deputies advised the hikers to stay put and wait for daylight to be escorted down off the mountain. They were equipped with flashlights.

When they arrived at the trailhead around 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, all five people appeared to be in good health, with a few scratches.

"We got pretty scratched up when we landed in some blackberry bushes during the night," said Butler.

Deputies said the incident is a reminder to all hikers that conditions can change without warning, and to bring extra clothing, food, water and flashlights on any outing.

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