Avalanche survivor takes nothing for granted | AspenTimes.com

Avalanche survivor takes nothing for granted

Dear Editor:

One year ago today, I had the most epic (and nearly my last) Valentine’s Day. I triggered and was caught in an avalanche near Margy’s Hut. I made it through 200-plus feet of slide and ended heads-up on top of a pile of snow with a nasty looking compound tib-fib fracture. It was a long, very cold night out (minus-15F) that I survived only because many people came to my rescue. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of my ski buddies, the Mountain Rescue team, and a daring pilot and crew, I was flown out the next day at barely first light and delivered to the safety of the Aspen Valley Hospital.

I have fuzzy memories of the people who answered the call to rescue me. Mostly they were hooded figures with frosted outlines. All of them endured extreme conditions, a sleepless night, and a long slog back home once the chopper was gone.

If you know of anyone who participated in this rescue, please convey my sincere and profound thanks. I was lucky to have lived through the avalanche. My overnight survival can only be attributed to the people who spent the night with me and brought me out safely. There are at least a couple dozen folks deserving praise, who can’t be thanked enough. There were probably a couple dozen sweethearts who had their romantic evening abruptly ended when the call to duty came. They deserve my sincere apologies.

As a backcountry enthusiast, I now realize just how lucky we all are to have people who will put themselves at great risk and untold effort to help some dumb stranger like me. I can’t imagine what it takes, in strength, endurance, and character, to be a volunteer (or paid) rescuer.

My debt to you is immeasurable. My gratitude is without bounds.

PS – I skied in 2 feet of powder yesterday in the back country; strictly 25-degree slopes with hyper awareness and total humility.

Read McCulloch

Buena Vista

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