Hiker lost for 30 hours at Great Sand Dunes National Park found alive

MOSCA, Colo. - A night hike at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve turned into a 30-hour survival ordeal for a hiker from Oregon.

Max McCleskey, 20, was hiking with a friend late into the night on Monday at the dunes when the hikers became separated at about 2 a.m. The friend made it to the parking area, but McCleskey did not, according to park officials.

Park Rangers, along with Alamosa County Search and Rescue volunteers, began search operations Tuesday morning. Rangers found McCleskey's notebook and wallet Tuesday, but despite numerous searchers on the ground and a search plane flying overhead, the hiker was still missing Tuesday night.  

Search operations resumed at dawn Wednesday morning. Within an hour, McCleskey was located by a ranger near the southern boundary of the national park.

Dehydrated and weak, he had survived 140 degree sand and chilly nights on water obtained from a remote wetland on the west side of the dunes, rangers said.  

He is expected to make a full recovery.

After becoming separated from his friend Monday night, McCleskey had become disoriented and walked around the remote southern and western sides of the dunefield through the day Tuesday. Late on Tuesday night he saw lights at the park entrance, and began walking in that direction, where he was located by rangers Wednesday.

"We are relieved at the successful outcome of this search, and that Mr. McCleskey is recovering," said Lisa Carrico, superintendent at Great Sand Dunes. "We greatly appreciate the coordinated teamwork of Alamosa Search and Rescue and Great Sand Dunes staff."

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