Rescue group tallies uptick in swiftwater responses |

Rescue group tallies uptick in swiftwater responses

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
Daily file photo

This summer’s high runoff kept Summit County Rescue Group busy with swiftwater responses, mission coordinator Joe Ben Slivka said.

On the flip side, calls for help on Quandary – typically the area needing the most help all summer – were slightly down from average.

“This is the quietest Quandary has been in years,” rescue group spokesman Jim Koegel said. “swiftwater calls were up dramatically.”

The winter’s deep snowpack and spring’s prolonged cold temperatures meant runoff from the high peaks into the areas creeks, streams and rivers was heavy for an extended time. The Blue River below Dillon Dam ran high through the end of July, contributing to a greater probability of boating and other swiftwater accidents requiring emergency response. Other creeks and streams flowing into Dillon Reservoir also ran high well into spring, causing flood concerns and requiring reconstruction of the washed-out Coyne Valley Road in Breckenridge.

Slivka counted the total calls requiring entire team response – a dozen in June; 20 in July and roughly 11 by the end of August. He said July’s 20 calls was “a touch high, but not out of the normal range.”

Beyond that, the group’s seven mission coordinators handled an estimated 160 calls that didn’t require a field response, such as lost individuals calling for help. They lent a hand outside Summit County 14 times this summer, which is average.

Calls on Quandary numbered five, which isn’t “extraordinarily” low, Slivka said. That count included a fatality from cardiac arrest near the summit.

The group’s other recorded fatality was a river-related incident.

“It’s not an anomaly in any direction,” he said, adding that the incident summaries from the entire summer don’t show many trends.

“The trend is not to have a trend,” he said, adding that the high proportion of calls from Quandary is a “numbers game,” related to the peak’s high traffic compared to other backcountry areas in Summit County.

The response season is far from over, too. Archery season began recently, with muzzleloader season and rifle season to follow, so “there’s potential for us to be busy again up through November,” Koegel said. The group also becomes busy once the snow begins falling and avalanche danger creeps up.

Slivka offered one tip – one that he said always comes out of the rescue group’s response analysis.

“If people are better prepared, we couldn’t have to go looking for them,” he said. Things like knowing the backcountry area, looking up and paying attention to weather conditions, carrying navigation and survival gear and having good communication with folks at home are all on the basic to-do list when hitting the trail.

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