‘We literally carried her down the canyon with a tarp and a sleeping bag’

WSU ORC workers use training to save hiker during Thanksgiving trip in Grand Canyon



Grand Canyon Search and Rescue team flying in to help

BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor

“From what we gathered, it seemed like she would not be able to make it another night,” said senior hospitality major Alana Duvall. 

Duvall and junior pre-health major, Johannah Ludwig, were the two adventure facilitators of the Outdoor Recreation Center to the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving Break in 2022. 

The Grand Canyon during an Outdoor Recreation Center trip over
Thanksgiving Break, 2022.

Randomly, the two were faced with an injured hiker. 

On the final day of their four-day, four-night trip in the canyon, Ludwig was at the front of the group and Duvall was in the back when they saw a girl hunched over and thought something might be wrong, Duvall said.

“I remember going up the trail and seeing the pair of hikers, Liz and Lauren, for maybe a quarter-mile. At first, I thought it was cool that we were not alone, but as we got closer I started to realize that something was wrong,” Ludwig said.

When the group finally made it all the way to Lauren, they quickly started putting their training to use and assessing anything wrong with her. Duvall said it seemed almost like she was drunk and was just out of it and hazy.

Ludwig said at first Lauren acted nonchalant about it, saying she was just a little exhausted and taking a break. However, the two knew that was not the case and began doing a full head-to-toe check. 

“From just what Johannah and I learned from our head-to-toe check was knowing that there was something wrong with her knee along with other general fatigue,” Duvall said.

Both Duvall and Ludwig said they did not feel overwhelmed and stressed for the most part, attributing their previous ORC trainings and confidence in their abilities. However, Ludwig said at first she had a feeling she may have been a little bit out of her depth. 

“There was that moment at first where you freeze and think, what am I supposed to be doing again? but I am also a pre-health major so being a part of that emergency response was super interesting,” she said.

After they figured that the best course of action was to get Lauren out of the canyon through a rescue team, they used the Garmen (an emergency satellite phone) to get in touch with the Grand Canyon Search and Rescue team. Duvall said it did not seem like she could make it another night, which is why they knew they needed to get her help as soon as possible. 

The toughest part after getting in contact with the rescue team was getting Lauren to the place where she could safely be transported out of the canyon, Duvall said. 

Alana Duvall (L) and Johannah Ludwig (R)

“We literally carried her down the canyon with a tarp and a sleeping bag,” she said.

As a group of seven people, it would not have been possible with a much smaller group, as they had to rotate and take turns carrying her down continuously. Ludwig said the rest of the group was really pivotal to the success of the rescue, especially when it came to carrying her down the canyon. 

Lauren was airlifted to a nearby hospital where she received care for dehydration and a ligament injury in her knee and has been recovering since. The group also aided in getting her friend Liz safely out of the canyon once Lauren was on the helicopter, Duvall said.

Duvall said they have remained, in contact with Lauren since and she has shown gratitude for their efforts in getting her out of the canyon.

Ludwig said just a few days before they embarked on their trip, she finished her audit on wilderness aid, something she said felt perfect and was really glad for the refresher on the skills after the events that unfolded on the trip. 

For Duvall, the biggest thing she will take away is to always be going prepared in the backcountry. She said you cannot ever be prepared enough because stuff is going to go wrong, and having the knowledge to be able to get yourself out of those situations is critical.

Both women became ORC adventure facilitators due to their love of the outdoors growing up.

“I grew up doing so much outdoors, and when I came to Wazzu I ended up actually being a participant in another ORC trip. Then it was recommended to me to be a facilitator, which is something I wanted to do,” Duvall said.

Ludwig shared a similar sentiment. She said before being a WSU student, she really enjoyed being outside and she had always been exposed to the outdoors because both of her brothers were in the Boys Scouts. 

“I just really liked being outside, so when I heard there was this job on campus where I could get paid to go backpacking, it sounded right up my alley,” she said.