Camper rescued from Gore Range

Nicole Formosa
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Scott Young, left, a paramedic with Summit County Rescue Group, helps 89-year-old Ed Carlson to an ambulance north of Silverthorne after Carlson was rescued Tuesday morning in the backcountry and flown out on an Army Natonal Guard helicopter. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily)

SUMMIT COUNTY – Search teams on Tuesday rescued an 89-year-old man who spent the weekend stranded in the Gore Range after his horse escaped from camp.

Ed Carlson was tired and dehydrated, but walking, as he exited a National Guard helicopter at about noon, a couple hours after a Forest Service work crew spotted him near the Gore Range Trail.

Carlson hugged his younger brother, Wes, before loading into a waiting ambulance for observation.

Wes Carlson said Tuesday he expected Ed would remain in the hospital overnight, but thought he would fully recover from his ordeal.

That ordeal began on Friday when Ed borrowed a horse from friend Joe LoBello and set out alone on horseback from Columbine Ranch, about six miles north of Silverthorne, bound for the Slate Creek drainage in the Gore Range.

Ed, who lives out of his RV, has spent countless hours exploring the Slate Creek area – at some points in his life spending up to a month in the forest camping and fishing – since he lived nearby in the 1930s and 40s.

“He has a fond attachment to the area,” Wes said.

Ed planned to set up camp then spend Saturday and Sunday exploring potential shorter routes up to his favorite campsite.

But, he ran into trouble when he encountered severe blowdown across the trail, presumably left over from a powerful June windstorm that ravaged parts of the county, Wes said.

His horse fell while trying to navigate the fallen trees, pinning Ed’s leg underneath the horse’s body and trapping both of them under a sapling.

Ed was able to reach his hatchet and freed himself and the horse, somehow managing to escape any serious injuries.

He unloaded the gear off the horse, tied her up, set up camp and went to sleep. He woke up at about 2 a.m. Saturday and realized the horse had disappeared.

Wes isn’t sure exactly how his brother passed the time on Saturday and Sunday, but he knows that on Monday Ed used his compass to direct himself back to the Gore Range Trail and waited for help.

Meanwhile, LoBello had arranged to meet Ed back at Columbine Ranch between 3 and 4 p.m. on Monday. While he was waiting, a ranchhand approached him to ask if he was missing a horse. When LoBello saw the ranchhand with Ed’s horse in tow, he knew something wasn’t right.

Fortunately, the horse wore only a harness and not the saddle, which may have indicated Ed had been tossed off and seriously hurt.

“If you’ve got a horse with all this kind of stuff,” LoBello said pointing at the saddle on one of his horses, “and no rider, then you’re in trouble, then you’d expect something bad.”

After briefly searching the trail for any sign of Ed, LoBello called the police.

Summit County Rescue Group searchers set out on the Gore Range Trail Monday evening and searched until about 4 a.m. Tuesday, said Summit Rescue Group coordinator Dan Burnett, but because Ed is hard of hearing, the searchers shouts likely went unnoticed.

Later in the morning, the search intensified with volunteers from Alpine Search and Rescue, Vail Mountain Search and Rescue and a helicopter from the National Guard’s High Altitude Aviation Training site in Eagle joining the effort.

A Forest Service work crew spotted Ed a few hundred yards from the trail and notified rescuers Tuesday morning.

He was tired and hungry – even though Ed had brought plenty of food to last four days in the woods, he was unable to cook any of it because he lost the lighter to ignite the propane stove when he and the horse fell on Friday.

Rescuers piggybacked Ed about a half-mile to the waiting helicopter and flew him and his dog, Boo, who was with Ed the entire time, down to the ranch.

Wes says despite all his brother’s been through, he doesn’t doubt he’ll be ready to get back out on the trail just as soon as he recovers.

“He has an obsession with Slate Creek,” Wes said.


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