Man rescued after cold night on Quandary
December 4, 2007
SUMMIT COUNTY ” A 26-year-old Denver hiker is recovering after spending a night hunkered down on Quandary Peak where temperatures dipped 13 degrees below zero.
The man’s roommates called Summit Rescue Group at about 9 p.m. on Saturday after their friend did not return from a planned day hike on 14,265-foot Quandary Peak, south of Breckenridge.
A team of five rescuers on snowshoes deployed from the McCullough Gulch trailhead at midnight, but were stymied at tree line by 30 mph winds and heavy snow, said Joe Ben Slivka, Summit Rescue Group mission coordinator.
“They had to turn around because the weather was so bad they couldn’t even see each other,” Slivka said, adding that rescuers turned back at about 3 a.m.
At daylight on Sunday, five teams set out on the trail again and saw tracks just after 10 a.m. on the northeast aspect of Quandary below Monte Cristo Peak, Slivka said.
A Flight For Life crew flew over the area and spotted the lost hiker stuck between a cliff band and a rock band on the north couloir.
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Reaching the man was difficult due to the avalanche danger on the steep slope below his location, Slivka said. A forecaster from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center was on the scene to help rescuers assess the avalanche risk.
The hiker was cognizant enough to climb down the couloir to the lead rescue climber, who helped him walk out to a waiting snowmobile, which carried him the rest of the way to the staging area. An ambulance crew took him to Summit Medical Center.
He was released Sunday evening; his injuries were limited to some blanching on one finger from the cold, according to a posting on the 14ers.com forum by the man’s roommate, Andrew Rohr.
Rohr reported that once his roommate realized he was lost and wouldn’t get off the mountain Saturday night, he dug a snow cave next to a rock and set up a bivy sack.
“He actually stayed relatively warm between the bivy and a sleeping bag liner and all of his clothes. … He was cold enough that he did have to wake up every 15 minutes or so to warm his hands and feet, but he said it was survivable,” Rohr wrote.
Slivka said the hiker did everything right in terms of telling his roommates exactly where he was going, where he would park his car and when to expect him back. That way, his friends could quickly report him missing when he didn’t return on time and lead rescuers to the exact spot to start the search.
The one message Slivka has is to remind people that it’s imperative to be aware of avalanche danger, even in the early season.
Rescuers triggered four small slides while attempting to reach the stranded hiker, and a sizable avalanche slid behind the lead rescue climber and the hiker just as they cleared the area.
Even if not much snow has fallen yet for the season and people might not think they have to worry about slides, “the reality is there that is this huge danger,” Slivka said.
“Until that snow adheres to the base substrate it can be very dangerous,” he added.
Go to http://avalanche.state.co.us/ for statewide avalanche forecasts.