Summit County Rescue Group sees busy weekend as visitors flock to mountains
KEYSTONE — The Summit County Rescue Group was busy last weekend responding to three calls on Saturday alone. And with visitors around the state eager to get up to the Western Slope as COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, it could be an taxing summer for rescue workers.
“Typically, we don’t get really busy until the week of Fourth of July,” said Charles Pitman, the group’s public information officer. “So I wouldn’t be surprised to see our work start to pick up. But last weekend was very busy. There were cars parked on the Dam Road like I’ve never seen before. It’s going to be interesting to see what’s happening the rest of the summer. People are anxious to get out of their houses and come up to the mountains.”
Pitman said the group’s first call came across the radio in the early afternoon, when someone reported a rolled over vehicle on Blue Lakes Road near the Quandary Peak Trailhead. Law enforcement officers and emergency medical responders made their way to the crash but couldn’t locate anyone from the vehicle.
The case was handed over to Colorado State Patrol, who later received a notification from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center that the driver made their way to the hospital, according to Capt. Jared Rapp. The driver suffered serious injuries including a broken rib and lacerations.
Shortly after, about 25 rescue workers responded to Dillon Reservoir to assist in the search for Paul Kresge, who died after falling into the water when a squall made its way across the reservoir. The search went well into the night, along with much of the next day.
But while rescuers scoured the nearby shorelines Saturday for any sign of Kresge, another call came in regarding a hiker in danger on a cliff face.
At about 4:35 p.m., a group of technical rescuers grabbed their climbing gear and made their way over to Tiptop Peak near Keystone, where a 26-year-old visitor became cliffed out — unable to move up or down — above a 40-foot cliff.
The woman attempted to free climb up a cliff face to get a better view, but she quickly got in over her head when a boulder dislodged and left her stranded. The woman had very little climbing experience. Pitman said it’s a common occurrence in Summit County’s backcountry.
“The rock here is so fractured,” Pitman said. “We’ve had a couple critical rescues over the last couple years where hikers will pull something loose. I’ve pulled one loose before and had a large boulder roll across my legs. That’s the nature of the rock in this area. What looks very secure may not be.”
Pitman said the woman’s father-in-law heard her yelling for help at about 4:13 p.m. and called 911 about 20 minutes later when it became clear she couldn’t get down on her own.
The rescue team found the woman “flattened against a rock,” holding on and unable to move. A team of three climbers — two descending from the top of the cliff and another climbing up from the bottom — were able to put the woman in a climbing harness and lower her down. The operation took about half an hour once rescuers spotted the woman.
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