SUMMIT COUNTY - Summit County Rescue Group faced an all-night evacuation after a hunter from Wisconsin slipped, fell and injured himself Saturday afternoon. He was located on the west side of Elliot Ridge in the Eagles Nest Wilderness between State Bridge and Heeney.
Though the hunter was actually trapped in Eagle County, Summit County rescue coordinators helped Vail Mountain Rescue because the area was harder to reach from the Eagle side.
"This is a very remote area in the northern Gore Range, and in fact, he happened to be very close to the same spot where three snowmobilers were found two years ago after a lengthy and highly publicized search," said Anna DeBattiste, the public information officer for Summit County Rescue Group. One of the snowmobilers involved in that incident died.
According to DeBattiste, 22 rescuers from Summit County Rescue Group responded around 4:30 p.m. - they took ATVs to the wilderness border and then dropped down into a very steep gully on foot. Next they descended about 1,200 feet through treacherous terrain, including snow fields, scree fields and loose rock.
Rescuers reached the hunter at 9 p.m., but by then they thought it was too hard to bring the hunter back the way they came.
"It was very cold, and we did not think going back up the steep scree field was safe even if we didn't have a patient to transport," DeBattiste said.
They looked for other ways out, but after searching the area for hours, rescuers couldn't find a usable route. But they did find a good landing zone. So incident commander Joe Ben Slivka called the National Guard High Altitude Training Center in Eagle County at 1 a.m. and asked for a helicopter.
Sixteen rescuers carried the hunter down to the landing zone - an operation that required moving half a mile through steep scree fields and marshy areas. They reached the site around 3 a.m., built a fire and spent the night waiting.
The helicopter came at 8:30 a.m. and the mission wrapped up at 11 a.m. Sunday, after 20 hours of work.
"It was also a very busy night for us," DeBattiste said. Earlier Saturday evening, three rescuers evacuated a group of stuck four-wheelers from Webster Pass. And while the Elliot Ridge rescue was going on, Summit County Rescue Group also helped people on Georgia Pass whose four-wheel drive vehicles skidded off the road and collided. There were no injuries.
Caitlin Row can be reached at email@example.com