Man clinging to side of Red Mountain rescued after 7-hour overnight operation
September 6, 2017
Garfield County Search and Rescue responded to its second rescue operation in eight days over the Labor Day weekend involving a hiker getting in over his head in steep terrain. This one was on a high ridge above West Glenwood.
According to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office news release sent Wednesday afternoon, rescuers were called shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday to assist a male who was stranded on the steep northern slope of Red Mountain several hundred feet above the RFTA bus facility and Glenwood Springs Municipal Operations Center.
Officials said the rescue continued into the wee hours of Sunday morning because of the climber’s precarious position, and put rescuers at risk. It ultimately took three helicopter flights to the ridge to shuttle the climber and members of the rescue team back to safety, the sheriff’s release stated.
The area is accessed via the Wulfsohn Mountain Park trail system. The hiker had climbed to a point where he was stuck in loose rock and dirt and indicated to rescuers via cell phone that he couldn’t climb up or down and wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold on.
Crews asked that he shine his phone toward Midland Avenue so they could determine his location, according to the release.
As night fell, search and rescue members determined that going up the steep and unstable face in the dark would be unsafe. Instead, they decided to try to reach the hiker from the ridge above Red Mountain Road to the south.
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“SAR members maintained contact with the stranded climber via phone as they worked their way through thick brush, much of which had to be cut away to allow passage,” according to the release. “They were in very difficult terrain traveling nearly 4 miles on foot in the dark.
“It was necessary to continue operations through the night, even though it placed the SAR members in greater danger due to the precarious situation the climber had put himself in,” the release continued.
By 3:10 a.m., crews were able to make voice and visual contact with he stranded climber and worked to rappel down and secure him in a helmet and harness, then used a rope system to pull him to the top of the cliff. Everyone was safely on top by 4:30 a.m., but they had to wait until a Classic Air Medical helicopter from Valley View Hospital could be dispatched nearly three hours later to retrieve them.
“The climber was fortunate; rescuers were amazed and glad at his ability to maintain his purchase during the seven-hour rescue operation,” according to the release.
This was the second technical rescue in Garfield County in eight days due to hikers starting up a slope and continuing even as the terrain got steeper and steeper.
Late in the afternoon Aug. 25, Garfield Search and Rescue set out to rescue two hikers who had climbed to a location on Anvil Points, at the base of the Roan Plateau west of Rifle, where they couldn’t continue up or down. The hikers had to wait it out overnight before the crew could reach them the next morning.
“In both cases the climbers were in loose dirt and rocks that are constantly sloughing off from the slope,” the latest sheriff’s release said. “Without having the proper equipment and training these ‘recreational’ climbers put themselves and those who had to make the rescue in danger.”
Garfield SAR reminds climbers who are entering steep terrain to have the appropriate safety gear and equipment.
“People interested in steep face, technical climbing need to invest in the proper equipment and learn how to use it safely, or join SAR where the training is free,” the release concluded.