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Emstrur hut One of the many hiking cabins along Laugavegur hiking trail, which leads from Þórsmörk nature reserve to Landmannalaugar highland oasis. Photo/Reen Eversdijk, Creative Commons
The French hikers who were the focus of a massive search and rescue operation yesterday evening and early this morning were oblivious to the fact that they were believed to be missing. The hikers had failed to notify anyone they had decided to deviate from their original plan. The couple had filed their travel plan with Icelandic Search and Rescue through safetravel.is.
When they did not show up at Básar hiking hut in Þórsmörk nature reserve on Sunday July 30 ICE-SAR units in South were dispatched to search for the couple. They were found safe and sound earlier this morning at Emstrur, the first stop along a second hiking trail, Laugavegur, which leads north from Þórsmörk nature preserve to Landmannalaugar highland oasis.
Not uncommon for people to deviate from plan
The regional commander of ICE-SAR in South Iceland told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that it is common people fail to stick to their original plans, but that search and rescue teams are usually able to locate people before a full scale search is launched:
"The way this works is that they file their travel plan with Safetravel, where they leave an estimated arrival time in Básar. But when they failed to show up at Básar, and failed to notify us that they had arrived safely at their destination, we started our inquiries. Our procedure is that if people do not show up at their reported destinations within 12 hours of their estimated arrival time we start a preliminary search."
The preliminary search involves contacting mountain huts and park rangers in the areas along the hike people had indicated they would take, as well as trying to contact the hikers in question by phone.
ICE-SAR unable to contact the French hikers
When the French couple had not been located on Monday afternoon a full scale search was launched: "What was unusual was that both of their phones had gone dead, so we were unable to use mobile phone data to locate them or call them up."
50 members of ICE-SAR teams in South Iceland, as well as a helicopter from the Coast Guard were dispatched to Fimmvörðuháls mountain pass, a challenging but beautiful hiking trail between Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers.
The search and rescue teams walked the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, talking to cabin guards and other hikers along the trail to inquire whether anyone had seen the French hikers as well as to check guestbooks in cabins and at cairns along the trail. Early this morning reinforcements from ICE-SAR in Reykjavík arrived at the scene to help with the search but these were called off when the two French hikers were discovered in Emstruskáli cabin by Markarfljót river, north of Þórsmörk nature reserve:
"They had no idea that a large scale search was underway, they were safe and sound, enjoying life."
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