Two runners have gone missing in remote Colorado mountains, leading to push for more education

Fitness is not enough to stay safe in remote mountains where risks are amplified

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Julie Engel-Schrumm runs up a lingering summer snowfield on Georgia Pass near Fairplay with her dog Badger. The ultrarunning community is planning an education campaign to help trail runners better prepare for high-consequence, technical mountain running.
Dean Krakel/Special to The Colorado Sun

DURANGO — As the worlds of trail running and technical mountaineering collide, rescuers are sharing the message that fitness alone is not enough to successfully navigate remote mountains where the risks of an accident are amplified. 

“There’s a big difference between going out for a trail run on some in-town trails and venturing up into the San Juans and some really challenging terrain,” said Brett Sublett, who has owned Durango Running Company for eight years.

There’s a strong light-is-right ethos in trail running that eschews laden packs. But as more athletes take their trail running fitness into steep, remote mountainous terrain, which requires safety gear, planning and more careful movement, the community of trail runners sees a growing need for education. The reorientation for runners comes after two athletes have gone missing on remote trails in the San Juans since July.

The educational focus is not unlike the increase in backcountry safety education in the past 20 years as more skiers with skills honed on lift-served slopes venture into avalanche terrain, where a more diverse skill set is required for safe descents and navigation.

“There are an increasing number of people going into very remote places on some pretty ambitious outings where a misstep can lead to disaster if they don’t have safety gear and are not searchable with something like a Garmin InReach,” said Brendan Trimboli, a longtime Durango runner who organizes the 15-mile Kennebec Mountain Run in the La Plata Mountains every year as a fundraiser for the La Plata County Search and Rescue team. “I think our sport has reached a point where we need to wrap it with a bit of responsibility while still keeping it fun.”


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