Denver woman rescued from Rosalie Peak
Editor’s note: Annie Halpin of Park County Search & Rescue sent this dispatch detailing a rescue that occurred over the weekend.Five Colorado mountain rescue teams joined forces Saturday night in a grueling 11-hour effort to reach and extricate a seriously injured Denver woman who was stranded in a winter storm on an exposed flank of Rosalie Peak in the Mount Evans Wilderness Area.The 28-year-old marathon runner had summited the 13,575 foot mountain mid-day with a hiking partner and her dog before suffering a femur fracture while descending approximately 600 feet below the peak. Her disabling injury prevented the hikers from moving off the mountainside as a snowstorm approached, but their cell phone luckily captured a signal, enabling them to call for help from their precarious perch above timberline.Park County Search and Rescue was paged at 2:14 p.m., and established a command post at the Tanglewood Creek trailhead northwest of Bailey as their first teams set off for the 4-mile ascent through rapidly accumulating snow. A Flight for Life helicopter attempted to rescue the hikers at 3:40 p.m. but could not land close enough to retrieve them before fierce weather forced the flight crew to leave moments after landing. With weather prohibiting an air rescue, the severely injured woman was facing a desperate wait and painful carry-out that would tax the rescuers who first had to hike up the mountain carrying heavy packs and equipment. Her partner’s calls to dispatch grew increasingly frantic as her condition deteriorated in the freezing night, and meteorologists warned of heavy snow, wind and lightning at altitude.Park County’s rescuers were joined by the Alpine Rescue Team of Evergreen, followed by Summit County Rescue Group, El Paso Search and Rescue from Colorado Springs, Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, and a member of Douglas County Search and Rescue who had been training rescue dogs with a Park County member when they were paged. In all, 43 trained rescuers responded with specialized equipment and survival gear. Snowmobiles were only able to ascend about one mile, except for Park County’s smallest machine, which carried an intrepid operator who found and packed another two miles of trail in the dark for teams following on foot. Even that machine could not climb the last steep mile above timberline. Snow was piling up so fast at times that teams following 15 minutes apart could not detect the tracks of preceding climbers, and in some areas rescuers on snowshoes were waist-deep in snow.Near midnight, Alpine Rescue’s “hasty team” found the injured hiker in a white-out blizzard with 40 mph sustained winds. They lowered her to timberline, where rescuers from combined teams secured her in a litter and began the laborious trek downhill, accompanied by the injured woman’s stalwart partner and dog. Her friend later stated that if rescuers hadn’t arrived when they did, the outcome would have been much worse.To save time and duress for their critical patient, an experienced Park County member bushwhacked ahead of the litter team to find shortcuts through the snowy forest that would bypass long traverses on the switchbacks. He reported being “growled at by something” on his solitary foray, but soldiered on, significantly shortening the egress for the suffering woman as relays of rescuers took turns muscling the litter down the mountain.Early Sunday morning, two Platte Canyon Fire paramedics met the rescue teams as they approached the trailhead. The paramedics provided pain medicine for the alpine athlete who had endured an agonizing nightmare on the mountain before she was transferred to Platte Canyon’s ambulance at 1:40 a.m. and transported to Swedish Medical Center.The hiker’s husband reports that surgeons repaired her severely displaced upper mid-shaft femur fracture and told him that she had lost two units of blood from internal bleeding associated with the fracture. He states that she is recovering in great spirits and has nothing but gratitude and good things to say about her rescuers.
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