Mising hikers say God, searchers got them rescued | AspenTimes.com

Mising hikers say God, searchers got them rescued

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

EAGLE COUNTY — A snowstorm got two Colorado Springs teenagers into trouble on Mount of the Holy Cross, and God helped get them out, they said.

Matt Smith and Tommy Hendricks spent two frigid nights on the 14,012-foot mountain after they got lost in a whiteout earlier this week.

Three dozen crew members from search and rescue groups around the region scoured the ground, while helicopters from three agencies launched an aerial search.

"We were praying to God because he was definitely with us during that whole climb," Hendricks told Rick Sallinger with Denver's channel 4 news. "It was probably the only thing keeping us alive."

“Fear is the epitome of doubt and if you doubt yourself in the mountains, you’re screwed.”Matt SmithColorado Springs

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Monday summit

The two left Colorado Springs on Sunday and camped before heading up Mount of the Holy Cross on Monday. They called family members Monday, saying they had reached the summit and were on their way down.

That was the last anyone heard from them until Wednesday when ground crews found their tracks and led a Colorado National Guard HAATS helicopter crew to the two teens near Harvey Lake.

"When that chopper saw us, it was a moment of pure joy," Hendricks said. We knew were going to get out of there, we would be OK."

They hunkered down in the rocks through sub-freezing temperatures, using body heat to survive two frigid nights.

"We had to have that body heat to survive," Hendricks told Sallinger.

They suffered some frostbite and were treated at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora after leaving the Vail Valley Medical Center on Wednesday evening.

Fear was not a factor, Smith said.

"Absolutely not," Smith said. "Fear is the epitome of doubt, and if you doubt yourself in the mountains, you're screwed."

Dozens of searchers

Ground crews searched for the teenagers during Tuesday's storms. Three dozen searchers started again early Wednesday morning joined by helicopters from three agencies: Colorado National Guard's HAATS crew, Flight for Life and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

After the two were spotted, they were hoisted from the ground to the Black Hawk on a winch, then were rushed by ambulance to the Vail Valley Medical Center.

Hendricks and Smith are students at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs. Both were said to be experienced climbers who have summited several of Colorado's fourteeners. They had food and sleeping bags with them.

To summit Mount of the Holy Cross, climbers must complete 12 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 5,600 feet. Climbers call the mountain "the Bermuda Triangle of Colorado."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.