Hikers rescued in Eagle County | AspenTimes.com

Hikers rescued in Eagle County

Lauren Glendenning
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Eagle County Sheriff's OfficeTwo rescued hikers board a Black Hawk helicopter after spending about two days on the Mount of the Holy Cross in Eagle County.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – A Colorado National Guard Black Hawk helicopter found two missing hikers in Reeds Meadow, west of the Mount of the Holy Cross summit in Eagle County at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The two men, Andy Westergard and Bill Hird, both in their 40s and from Michigan were reported missing on Monday. They had last been seen at about 3:30 p.m., at about 13,500 feet, hiking toward the summit of the mountain. The men never returned to their campsite and another hiker at the campsite reported them missing.

Westergard and Hird left their cell phones at the campsite so they could not call for help. The men were tired and a little dehydrated when rescuers found them, but they were not injured, said Shannon Cordingly, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

The men had more gear with them than rescuers originally thought, Cordingly said. They apparently went off course as they descended from the summit and lost sight of the ridgeline, she said.

As search and rescue teams looked for them, the hikers were also moving around, which make the search more difficult, she said.

“We were kind of circling each other,” Cordingly said.

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Capt. Michael Odgers said the men used a mirror to attract attention.

Odgers said the Black Hawk crew noticed a signal mirror at about 8 a.m. while dropping off the second of two ground crews searching for the men.

“While en route to hover over the suspected area where the mirror was seen, the helicopter crew identified two distressed hikers,” said Odgers. “The crew was able to land safely and pick up the hikers a few minutes later.”

Vail Mountain Rescue Group advises anyone who gets lost in the backcountry to retrace the route back toward the trailhead until you pick up the trail or find someone who knows the area. If you cannot retrace your route, stay put, conserve energy and water, make yourself visible and await rescue.

Eight different agencies helped with the search and rescue operations – the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, the Colorado National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Center, Summit County Rescue Group, Douglas County Search and Rescue Team, Larimer County Search and Rescue, Teller County Search and Rescue and El Paso County Search and Rescue.

The search and rescue began around 8 a.m. Tuesday and ended at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The search resumed at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, when the Colorado National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Center helicopter located the men.

lglendenning@vaildaily.com