Couple, dog rescued in late-night mission on Buffalo Mountain
SILVERTHORNE — Summit County Rescue Group on Friday rescued a hiking couple, along with their dog, after they got cliffed out in a couloir on the north side of Buffalo Mountain.
Rescue group spokesperson Charles Pitman said the couple and their dog were rescued at about 11:45 p.m. Friday after they had attempted to summit Buffalo Mountain but got lost trying to come back down. They called for help at about 8 p.m.
Pitman said the couple, who were visiting from Texas, had run into the same problem other hikers have encountered while trying to summit Buffalo. Similar to at least three other instances this summer, Pitman said, the hikers managed to get to the top of Buffalo before losing the main trail on the way down.
“They had gotten off trail as they were descending, toward a place with rock bands,” Pitman said. “They drifted more to their left, toward the north, and wound up in one of the couloirs some people call Big Elvis.”
Pitman explained that the couple had made it pretty far down the couloir but started scrambling down loose scree before getting stuck on a cliff edge. The couple got to a point where they didn’t feel comfortable to go down any farther, especially with their dog.
The rescue group sent out eight members in two teams to assist in a technical rescue, even outfitted with a dog harness in case the dog needed to be lifted out. That did not wind up being the case, and all three were rescued without injury.
The mission wrapped up at about midnight and was stymied at one point when the returning group encountered two bull moose idling by the trail. After finding a way to avoid the wild animals, the group managed to get back to Ryan Gulch Road safely.
“Buffalo Mountain seems to be the mountain du jour at the moment, in that this is the fourth or fifth rescue we’ve had to do there this summer,” Pitman said, adding that a hiker had to be rescued from the same couloir on the northern side a few weeks ago.
When asked whether the mountain needs signage to help guide people off, Pitman leaned against the notion of creeping further into the wilderness.
“I am always hesitant to say we need to expand trails or put signs up,” Pitman said. “It is a wilderness area, and people need to be aware of trail on the way up. It makes sense to turn around and look down on occasion. People from out of state are not very aware of how to gain perspective and reference points.”
Pitman added that some of the trails on the mountain are game trails used by animals.
“When you get to top of these peaks, game trails look very similar to trail a hiker would use, and they assume it’s for humans,” he said. “The problem is, the goats go to an area and scatter, which makes the trail disappear, and people get lost.”
Pitman said the rescue group had seen a high level of calls this year, with about 120 calls for assistance so far. However, he said the rescue group was still much busier last summer, when several hikers lost their lives, including well-known local coach and endurance athlete Hannah Taylor.
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