Mountain Rescue credited with ‘life-saving’ backcountry mission |

Mountain Rescue credited with ‘life-saving’ backcountry mission

Naomi Havlen

Mountain Rescue Aspen came to the aid of a counselor from the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf who fell critically ill on a camping trip last month.The counselor became sick during an overnight trip with a group of campers who were deaf or hard of hearing. According to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office report, the young woman couldn’t keep food or water down and became disoriented and unable to walk; a fellow counselor called the sheriff’s office.Mountain Rescue Aspen was called mid-day on July 17, and immediately sent two team members to the area, in the west Snowmass Creek drainage area near Moon Lake.Mountain Rescue president High Zuker said other team members then hiked to the scene and put the woman in a litter – a stretcher specifically designed to navigate steep, rocky terrain. It was difficult communicating with the woman, according to Mountain Rescue member David Swersky, since she was using sign language and was very sick.Swersky said a couple of recreational horseback riders helped the Mountain Rescue team by cutting trees that were lying across the trail with handsaws.”It’s pretty typical for people we see out there to be a great help to us,” Zuker added. The rescue was expedited by two paramedics from the Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District, who hiked up the trail and started an intravenous drip for the woman while still in the backcountry.Once at the trailhead, the woman was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment. According to sources, there was speculation she had meningitis.”It was a well-run rescue – very well-expedited,” Swersky said. “We’re not normally a fast-moving group, because our first goal is to be safe, not fast. This rescue was both safe and fast-moving, and it’s quite possible that it was a life-saving situation.”Zuker said he was told by a number of sources that it was most likely a life-saving rescue.”The patient was very, very sick, and could have crashed if she didn’t have help as quickly as she did,” he said. “The Snowmass paramedics who made themselves available to us were a big help.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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