Mountain Rescue Aspen will kick off Mountain Safety campaign Oct. 11 | AspenTimes.com

Mountain Rescue Aspen will kick off Mountain Safety campaign Oct. 11

Mountain Rescue Aspen will kick off a public campaign this month that is designed to build awareness for staying safe during summer adventures in the backcountry.

The rescue group will hold a panel discussion Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. at the CB Cameron Rescue Center, Mountain Rescue's headquarters near the Aspen Business Center. It will be free and open to the public.

David Swersky, a longtime Mountain Rescue Aspen member who helped create the group's highly successful Avalanche Awareness workshop in 1985, said the rescue group's broader goal is to hold a Mountain Safety workshop annually in late spring or early summer. But Mountain Rescue felt a community meeting was needed sooner following a deadly summer in the Aspen backcountry.

"We felt we needed to do something now," Swersky said.

Six mountaineers, who also happen to be members of Mountain Rescue's board of directors, will sit on the panel. They will address a variety of topics and there will be a Q&A session with the public.

The panel members include Jeff Edelson, Jordan White, Debbie Kelly, Doug Paley, Justin Hood and Liz Bergdahl.

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One topic will be a look back on the events that unfolded over the course of the summer, including deaths of six climbers on Capitol and Maroon peaks and a hiker's death from acute mountain sickness in Conundrum Valley.

"What happened this summer?" Swersky said. "Is it a trend or an anomaly?"

Mountain Rescue leaders were notified roughly 75 times during spring and summer about possible incidents. Swersky said 57 calls resulted in the organization sending its volunteer members into the field.

"The number of saves have far exceeded the recoveries," he said.

But the summer will be remembered for the high number of tragedies. It also was busier than usual, Swersky said.

The increased number of calls is largely a product of more people venturing into areas such as the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

"We probably have three to four times the number of people banging around the backcountry as in year 2000," Swersky said. "Our missions are up about 10 percent."

The Mountain Rescue panel will review six incidents from this summer with the public. Attendees will get insights into Mountain Rescue's operations. The panel will discuss steps that solo climbers and adventurers should take — chief among them leaving a detailed itinerary.

There will be a live webcast of the event and a webpage will be established closer to the event at http://www.mountainrescueaspen.org.

Meanwhile, Mountain Rescue is working on details of the Mountain Safety seminar it intends to make an annual event. It will be modeled after the Avalanche Awareness workshop, which attracts more than 100 skiers, snowboarders, snowmobile riders, snowshoers and other adventures each January. The Avalanche Awareness workshop features an evening classroom session and an all-day field session with rescue exercises.

Just as that workshop has likely made a difference in safety over the past 32 years, Mountain Rescue hopes the Mountain Safety workshop will start making a difference for summer adventurers next year.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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