Rescue Group performs 2 missions Sunday on Quandary Peak |

Rescue Group performs 2 missions Sunday on Quandary Peak

The ridgeline leading to the summit of Quandary Peak is seen through the cairn at the summit of Bald Mountain in September.
Antonio Olivero /

DILLON — The Summit County Rescue Group performed a pair of rescue missions Sunday on Quandary Peak where hikers in two separate groups lost the trail and found themselves stuck in deep snow.

At about noon, an individual called to report someone yelling for help on Quandary Peak southwest of Blue River. A hiker summited the peak but lost the trail on his way down and ended up in very soft snow and unable to climb out, according to a release from the rescue group.

Summit County Rescue Group responded with three teams that went up the East Ridge Trail and McCullough Gulch Road. The team responding up the road made contact with other hikers who said they also heard the screaming. A good Samaritan skier eventually located the man and guided him down McCullough Gulch Road.

According to the release, the man’s cellphone died while he was on his hike. Charles Pitman, a spokesperson for the rescue group, said it’s a good reminder that backcountry recreationists should keep their phones off until they need them.

“In the case of the man who was lost, his cellphone battery died — a very common occurrence,” Pitman said. “He wisely did have a backup-battery but had forgotten the cable to attach it to his phone. The smallest things can result in a bad day.”

Rescue group personnel transported the man via an all-terrain vehicle to the trailhead parking lot, and no injuries were reported.

At about 3:40 p.m. the same day, a report came in about two women who also had summited Quandary Peak and lost the trail during their descent. The women were lost in deep snow on the southeast flank of the mountain, and cellphone GPS coordinates placed them about 900 feet above Blue Lakes Road.

The women were told to continue hiking downhill toward the road. A rescue group member and Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputy met them in the area and transported them to their vehicle at the trailhead about 40 minutes later.

All three individuals requiring assistance Sunday got into trouble because of changing snow conditions as weather warmed up throughout the day, according to Pitman. He said hikers and other backcountry users should keep those conditions in mind as the weather continues to warm up over the coming weeks and to remember that while the rescue group always will provide help when needed, response times could be extended under current circumstances. 

“We like to remind hikers that, at this time of the year, the snow conditions can change throughout the day,” Pitman said. “Hiking to the top of many peaks may be on very firm snow in the early morning hours, but as the temperature warms up, the snow quickly softens. What starts out as a comfortable ‘boot pack’ hike — that is, walking on top of the frozen snow — can easily end up with the hiker sinking in 12 to 36 inches later in the day.

“The result can be, at the very least, wet footwear compounded by cold feet. Longer exposures can lead to frostbite. In addition, ‘post-holing’ through deep snow is very tiring, and if a hiker finds him or herself in a gully, it could be very difficult to climb up and out.”

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