Matt Martin had it all planned out.
He would hike solo across the 50-mile Kaiparowits Plateau in
southern Utah over Spring Break and be back in Fort Collins in time
for class. He did, after all, have all the necessary gear: the
permits, the maps and most importantly, the satellite phone.
Little did he know the trip would turn into a near-death
He had heard he was heading into an area deemed the loneliest
place in America, but being an avid hiker, Martin, a sophomore
English major, was determined to make the trek.
Wednesday evening, after a long day of hiking nearly 10 miles,
Martin decided to pitch his tent. The snow he had encountered over
the past two days proved to be a burden on his journey. The cattle
trail he was supposed to follow was covered in snow and as he eased
into the valley and up the mountainside, Martin found himself on a
ledge that dropped off about 150 feet.
“The incline was so severe that there was a possibility of a
roll-off if I pitched my tent,” Martin said.
As the sun faded in the distance, Martin was unable to turn
around and hike back in the dark. Feeling nervous, he used his
satellite phone to call his parents in Indiana and asked them to
help him make a plan to get back.
“He was pretty calm,” said Cherie Martin, Matt Martin’s mother.
“He had some concerns about the snow so we started to look at
routes for him to come home early.”
The plan was for Matt Martin to stay where he was and to call
back to develop a new route.
But it was dark then, and Martin thought he could hike down to
another level of the mountain where he could possibly sleep safely
in his sleeping bag.
He threw his pack and sleeping bag down the plateau’s side and
tried to maneuver down the mountain.
“It was like an optical illusion when you looked down,” he said.
“Once you get down one level, you see more (levels) and they’ve
He kept the satellite phone close so he could call for help if
he was unable to get to his pack.
Wearing only a T-shirt, jeans and a pullover, his shoes covered
in mud, he started to lose his grip. He reached for the sagebrush
above him, but he slid down 150 feet and then fell another 30
before hitting the ground. He opened his eyes when blood started to
trickle down his face.
He had a 5-inch gash on his head and scrapes and bruises all
over his body. His pack was still out of reach and his satellite
phone was above him where he slid off the mountainside.
“Never did find that pack,” he said.
In the 30-degree mountain air he waited, shivering throughout
the night, until a rescue helicopter found him 12 hours later.
“I did whatever I could to keep myself moving and to keep myself
awake,” Martin said. “I counted to 20,000 and did multiplication
tables in my head.”
He said wild animals were not a concern because he was in such a
“They wouldn’t want to go through all that to get to me,” he
The Global Positioning System on his satellite phone allowed the
Kane County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue helicopter to find him
around 8 a.m. Thursday.
He arrived at the hospital bruised and dehydrated and received
six stitches on his head wound. Martin returned to Fort Collins in
good condition and is ready to conquer the 50-mile trek again, but
perhaps using a different route, he said.
In the future Martin plans to be an adventure travel writer, and
his mother knows this trip was just the beginning.
“I hope at this point he will rethink going on his own,” she
said. “We were not terribly crazy about it in the first place.”
Martin, however, has been inspired by the event.
“This story is golden for that kind of writing,” he said.