Well, @MsBetsy, this is where I think we (and hopefully the public at large) can learn from the decisions EC/JG made that day. One of them, as I opined up thread in my 10 lessons learned about crisis management in such a situation, is they did have a choice when they started up the SLT. One obvious choice is to retreat to the river and WAIT there until SAR came for them - perhaps the next day. Better to be hungry than dead. Another choice they could have made much earlier, when they first hit the South Fork Trail, is to hike the other way (7 miles, down hill, along the river) to Route 140 either at the end of Hites Mine Trail or Hite Cove Trail.
That is the key lesson here... your car, 3 miles up a steep sunbaked trail, may not be the best recourse. That all said, I doubt their brains were working well at that point.
True. Although the hike to the 140 would be an additional 2-3 miles, it would be relatively level. However, they would definitely have to utilize river water too cool off or possibly drink to avoid death. Same with waiting at SL....they would have to use the river water for both cooling and drinking. Of course, they would probably avoid that option due to algae warnings and, as someone pointed out, >>>that's the irony of this tragedy. The warning may have actually contributed to their deaths if it prevented them from utilizing this resource.
There was also the option of turning back at the bottom of HC Road at the river. It would be steep, but *only 2 miles* to the car. This option would be much shorter than a hike to the 140 and may have been survivable even without river water, which the other two options discussed would require. MOO