Summit rescue group responds to a slew of emergencies as peak season strikes
A drowning, an injured paraglider, two skiers stranded overnight and a serious head injury kept Summit County Rescue Group busy over the past week.
Spokesperson Anna DeBattiste said the rescue team has responded to 15 calls since July 9. Lost, distressed, sick and “cliffed out” hikers accounted for nine of those calls.
The remaining calls included an all-terrain vehicle traffic jam on Webster Pass, a fatal drowning, an injured paraglider, a climbing accident, one accidental call and one call for “lights on Royal” that, as often happens, was nothing more than some after-hours hikers.
“We are clearly in peak rescue season,” she said as she explained crews were anticipating the spike. “Anyone on call in July and August is going to a have a rough week.”
From such a busy string of days, DeBattiste emphasized the following three messages: always wear a personal flotation device, always wear a helmet and beware of deadfall.
The latter message came as a result of repeated reports of lost hikers wandering from their planned route after deadfall obscured their path, she said. While U.S. Forest Service personnel will routinely clear downed trees from trails, they won’t do so for off-trail routes, she said. Deadfall can disorient those venturing into obscure backcountry ski areas and other destinations, and adventurers should exercise caution, she said.
Climber suffers head injury
An injured climber in the Tenmile Canyon was airlifted to a hospital Thursday after she fell 10 to 12 feet and hit her head. She was not wearing a helmet, DeBattiste said.
The climber suffered serious head injuries and required a Flight for Life helicopter transport to Denver, according to Summit County Rescue Group records. DeBattiste could not comment on the climber’s current condition as of Friday.
The rescue group called the response an exercise in multi-agency teamwork. Flight for Life, Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol, Frisco Police Department, two paramedics and Summit Fire & EMS’s Engine 1 crew joined 12 Summit County Rescue Group volunteers in the response Thursday.
Skiers spend night in ditch
A pair of backcountry skiers and their three dogs had to decide between ascending the Gore Range in a lightning storm or descending into an unknown area with rough terrain on July 17. Ultimately, the pair were forced to hunker down in a drainage ditch.
The skiers were experienced, according to the rescue group’s Facebook post, but the pair recognized, afterward, they should have been prepared for a longer adventure. The batteries on their Garmin inReach and their cellphones died, but fortunately the emergency alert sent from the device reached their emergency contact.
They began their adventure in the Piney area of Eagle County on the western slope of the Gore Range. They intended to head out and back, but they were forced onto the eastern slope west of Silverthorne.
The contact called 911 late in the evening of July 16 to report the two skiers were in distress. After getting in touch, both skiers and rescue personnel determined it would be wisest to attempt a rescue the next morning, DeBattiste said. So the skiers hunkered down in a ditch with ample apparel and did their best to rest until morning.
When the sun rose, two rescue crews went out in search of the pair. One journeyed up to the ditch while the second hiked up the Gore Range Trail. The second crew on the trail found the skiers and their dogs safe heading down South Rim Black Creek Trail.
“Sometimes we have to make tough calls in the backcountry, and it’s hard to know which is the lesser of the risks. The important thing is that we do what these subjects did by analyzing our options and the potential consequences as thoughtfully as possible, rather than making hasty decisions,” the post said.
Paraglider suffers injury
A downed paraglider led to a rescue on Peak 6 Monday. The paraglider’s injuries were not life-threatening — only an injured ankle — but rescuers still had a long journey ahead of them, DeBattiste said.
The rescue group responded to the call at 10:20 a.m. Monday morning. According to another glider, the injured man accidentally wrapped a brake line around an obstacle just as he was taking off, DeBattiste said.
Rescue crews initially staged on Peak 7 near the Peaks Trailhead. Four team members hiked from the Zendo Chairlift in Breckenridge. The injured man was located on the Colorado Trail. Crews loaded him into a rescue basket mounted on a fat tire and wheeled him down the Colorado Trail on the Copper Mountain side. Another team of two went up from the Copper side to help the other team evacuate the injured man.
On its Facebook page, Summit County Rescue Group wrote, “Peak 6, or anywhere on the Tenmile Range, means a long, arduous evacuation, but it also means some incredible views. We wish our paraglider a speedy recovery!”
A microburst knocked Miguel Mendez, 25, of Englewood, off his board last Saturday afternoon in the Dillon Reservoir. Summit County Rescue group participated in the search for the man’s body.
The man drowned in the area between the Dillon Marina and the Roberts Tunnel shoreline. The man was with a group of friends attempting to escape the oncoming storm by returning to the marina, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said in a report.
Witnesses reported that the individual had a personal flotation device strapped to his board, but they said he was not wearing it. After falling off his board, he was unable to keep his head above water, and officials said the cold waters can quickly affect muscle coordination and stamina.
Members of Summit County Rescue Group searched the shores near the Roberts Tunnel access road, DeBattiste said. Other search-and-rescue members were already involved with the Summit County Water Rescue Team’s efforts.
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