Sheriff says hiker faced tough, short fight to live

The Utah sheriff who led the search for a New Castle woman whose body was found Saturday says she probably lived only a couple of days after disappearing last November.
Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon said Rose Backhaus would have faced difficult weather conditions following her disappearance Nov. 16 while hiking southwest of Green River. Hikers found her body in the upper Chute Canyon area Saturday.

Autopsy results showed Backhaus died of exposure, Guymon said.

He said Backhaus had wrapped herself with plastic beneath her clothing for added warmth, apparently using bags she may have brought along in case of rainy weather.

He said no notes were found with her body.

Backhaus is believed to have set out to do a loop hike of popular Bell and Little Wild Horse canyons. After reaching the top of Bell Canyon, she apparently headed for the turnoff into Little Wild Horse canyon but missed it. Guymon said she ended up in a slot canyon feeding into Chute Canyon, but was stopped at the slot canyon’s end by a 40-foot drop-off. She was unable to backtrack because what she had descended was too steep to climb.

Guymon said Backhaus apparently had taken shelter beneath a crevice before dying.

“It looks like she just kind of sat there and went to sleep,” he said.

Jim Gisburne, who worked with Backhaus at Copy Copy in Glenwood Springs and sometimes hiked with her, said she probably didn’t suffer a lot of pain, but instead just endured anguish and frustration over her situation.

“Hopefully at some point she just had a trauma response and just let her body shut down,” he said.

Backhaus, 54, was a mother and grandmother and an avid hiker. She had gone to Moab the weekend of Nov. 16 and failed to show up back at work Nov. 17.  Her vehicle wasn’t discovered at the loop hike trailhead until Nov. 24.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Gisburne said. “I’m glad we’ll finally get some closure.”


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