Rescuer recalls missions to Janet’s Cabin, Vail Pass
SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County Rescue Group mission coordinator Dan Burnett said he’s never seen rescues like the two his group responded to Saturday afternoon.”The teamwork of the Summit County Rescue Group is totally cool,” he said. “It was a really great thing to get to witness the leadership and the people who went into the field. It shows whether an organization can hold together or not. I’ve never seen a rescue that came down quite like that.”The challenge was that both rescues occurred at the same time.A man in his late 30s had been telemark skiing at Janet’s Cabin and fell on the hill below the cabin, severely twisting his back. Because of patient confidentiality laws, no information could be obtained about his condition Sunday.Burnett said the man didn’t think his back was broken, but he was unable to move. His three friends were able to drag him back to the hut.A Flight For Life helicopter was summoned to the scene and dropped off two flight nurses who stabilized the injured man.The helicopter then flew to Nottingham Ridge on Vail Pass where it was reported that a snowmobiler had triggered an avalanche. A three-hour search revealed that no one was caught in that slide.The helicopter then returned with three search and rescue members who built three, 100-foot-long uphaul systems to bring the injured man from the hut to the helicopter. The pilot then flew him to St. Anthony’s Central in Denver. The search and rescue members walked out, arriving back at Copper Mountain at about 7:30 that night.”It’s real inspiring to go into a hut rescue,” Burnett said. “Without exception, all the people in the hut jump in to help you. That’s why we can do it with only three (rescue) people in; we knew they’d all bust their butts and help us get him up to the helicopter.”The rescue team responds to an average of two rescues a year at the cabin, Burnett said. Most of those are broken limbs, but occasionally, they’ll respond to the report of someone who’s fallen seriously ill because of the high elevation.Rescue missions to Janet’s Cabin have become increasingly complex since a snowmobile touring company discontinued its operations from the Climax Mine area to Searle Pass. The rescue team used to use those snowmobiles to get to within about a quarter-mile of the cabin.”Even then, it was still a hideous thing to pull someone from Janet’s Cabin to Searle Pass,” Burnett said. “Rescues in the future are going to be much, much more difficult.”The thin air at 12,000-plus elevation further complicates missions because it becomes increasingly more difficult for helicopters to fly.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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