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Hiker's Death Serves As Tragic Reminder To Be Safe In Extreme Heat Conditions

An image of "The Wave" in northern Arizona.
iStock.com / ronnybas
An image of "The Wave" in northern Arizona.

A Belgian hiker died from apparent heat-related causes earlier this week at the Utah-Arizona border.

49-year-old Christophe Pochic was on vacation in Southern Utah, hiking The Wave, one of the area's most iconic striped sandstone trails.

According to police reports, on Monday night he became disoriented while hiking and got separated from his 16-year-old son. Pochic was found several hours later, deceased, in an apparent heat-related death.

Brendan Milliner is a Wilderness Medicine Fellow at the University of Utah.

"We don't know exactly what happened in this case but it sounds like this person may have gotten confused because he was really getting into that heat stroke territory, and really getting into pretty dangerous ground," Milliner said.

High heat exposure interferes with the body's ability to stay cool, Milliner said, and that disrupts brain function. 

Public lands in the Mountain West region attract visitors from across the nation and the world.

Milliner said tourists who aren't used to extreme heat should be sure to educate themselves on how to stay safe in high temperatures.

July, 2018 temperatures were above average for the entire Mountain West, making it especially important to be careful in the outdoors.

Milliner offered three pieces of advice for hiking in hot temperatures

  1. Stay cool: Dress in lightweight, light colored clothes. Go out during cool hours of the day and avoid peak sun exposure. Pace yourself and use sunscreen. 
  2. Stay hydrated: Drink at least a cup of water every 15 minutes. Drink slowly and regularly using accessories like hydration packs. 
  3. Stay informed: Check the weather to know how hot it will be. Plan your activity during cool hours. Look for signs of heat illness like nausea, dizziness or vomiting. Not sweating or urinating can be signs of more advanced heat illness. Signs of severe heat illness include confusion and difficulty walking. If you experience these signs, look for shade and seek help.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
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