The Summit County Rescue Group responded to three incidents on Quandary Peak Tuesday, July 22.
The first call was received at around 12:30 p.m. regarding a hiker who fell near the summit and sustained lacerations to his head, arms and leg.
Rescue teams at the trailhead learned that Flight For Life helicopter response would be unavailable due to high temperatures on the 14,265-feet mountain. High temperatures combined with high elevation can substantially effect a helicopter’s lift capability and reduce its ability to land at high altitude.
As the first two rescue teams made their way up Quandary, a second call was received at around 2:20 p.m. regarding a hiker who had fallen and sustained a serious lower-leg injury. The team reached the second hiker first and assessed her condition. The teams then split to aid both hikers. While hiking toward the tree line, the second team came across a third hiker who was vomiting and experiencing what appeared to be significant altitude sickness issues.
Two team members stayed with the third hiker, providing hydration and oxygen and eventually assisting with a return to the trailhead. Other team members continued toward the summit.
Sources on site reported that the hiker with the head injury was able — with the assistance of others — to slowly descend Quandary. At a lower altitude — around tree line — rescue group members assessed that hiker’s condition and determined that continued descent without further group assistance would be possible.
That left the group to deal with the second hiker, with the leg injury.
Charles Pitman, the rescue group’s spokesman, said, “Fortunately for the team, two of the first people on scene happened to be a paramedic and an ER nurse, who could provide a good idea of the nature of the hiker’s injuries prior to (the rescue group) arriving.”
The hiker with the leg injury was eventually stabilized and loaded on the team’s wheeled litter for the descent.
Pitman said team members were especially grateful for the assistance from the paramedic and nurse, who carried out some of the team’s gear and helped wheeling out the litter. The injured hiker’s son also carried out some gear that had been brought into the field in the event it was needed for the patient with the head injury.
“Bringing out the wheeled litter is a time consuming and arduous task, especially on Quandary Peak,” Pitman said. “The stone steps, large rocks, narrow trail, roots and logs across the trail all combine to make for a tiring descent. The other hikers not associated with (the rescue group) were a big help.”
Pitman said generally there are six to eight rescuers on the litter, and because of the difficulty of the terrain there is a constant need to rotate in fresh people during the descent.
“Multiple rescues in a single day do happen on occasion,” Pitman said, “but several simultaneous missions on the same mountain are fairly rare and can really stretch our resources, both personnel and equipment.”
Judging by the number of hikers on Quandary on Tuesday, Pitman said the possibility of heading back up there in the coming days and weeks was high. Graded as an easy hike, Quandry remains one of the most common sites in the county for rescue calls, according to rescue group officials.