CMC Member’s Mysterious Backcountry Death: Why did Grant Hurd Die?
And what can be learned from what happened?
By Denver Group members Ryan Ross and Linda Lawson
The backcountry death last November of CMC Denver Group member Grant Hurd
saddened those who had enjoyed sharing the trails and slopes with him, and created a mystery:
Why did he die?
Grant was fit and healthy. He wasn’t on any medication other than drugs to help reduce
his cholesterol. Law enforcement officials who’ve been briefed on the autopsy say it didn’t
reveal any injury or heart problem. Grant was an experienced hiker. He wasn’t doing any
technical climbing or scrambling. He was walking in or alongside a shallow creek. He couldn’t
have easily made any side excursions because the creek was in a canyon with walls that couldn’t
be climbed without equipment he didn’t have. He had plenty of water. He was about 60 feet
from an unimproved road and 200 yards from a graded gravel road when he stopped walking,
and if he’d reached the road he would have been about two miles from his car. He’d hiked the
same trail just a few hours earlier. He’d turned around at some point that day, and therefore
knew where he was going (to his car) and approximately how long it would take to get there. He
wasn’t anymore lost than anyone could be in a city park.
But at one point he stopped walking, and that’s where he died. Why?
The mystery reveals itself only by describing the terrain in more detail, recreating his
movements and detailing what he did and didn’t do, and what he knew and didn’t know. And
even then some pieces of the mystery endure because of the most important feature of his last
hike: he was alone.
The following account is based on a review of the report by one of the sheriff’s deputies
who searched for and found Grant, and interviews with the sheriff’s deputies, search and rescue
personnel, a forest service official, the leader of a canine unit that helped search for Grant, the
manager of the motel where he spent h