Rescued hiker recalls harrowing ordeal | AspenTimes.com

Rescued hiker recalls harrowing ordeal

Nicole Formosa
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Betty Whyel recovers at the Summit Medical Center Friday following her dramatic rescue by the Summit County Rescue Group after being injured during a hike on Mount Royal Wednesday. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily)

FRISCO – Betty Whyel spent what seemed like forever on the side of Mount Royal Wednesday night falling in and out of lucidity and periodically throwing up from the pain of ripping her right hand open on a rock during a 30-foot fall down the mountain.

“It was scary. It took forever for them to find us. I didn’t think they were gonna find us. I thought I was going to die,” Whyel said, her voice quivering.

Whyel and two friends, Mike Bazar and Paul Findley, who were all in town from Ohio, were hiking down Royal at about 4 p.m. on Wednesday when they accidentally picked up the wrong trail.

“We had lost the trail so we started just climbing down the rocks,” Whyel said from her hospital bed at Summit Medical Center on Friday morning.

Whyel, 29, remembers sliding and not being able to stop. Then, she felt her hand catch a rock and her body stop tumbling. Rescuers told her that if she had fallen five more feet, she likely would’ve suffered a fatal plummet down the mountain.

The rock that stopped Whyel’s fall sliced an artery in her wrist and blood was spraying out quickly, Bazar said. Findley and Bazar hurried down the rocks to reach their friend.

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Findley called 911, while Bazar tied Whyel’s arm with a tourniquet he made from the cord of a set of headphones he was carrying and covered Whyel with shirts to keep her from going into shock.

“I just tried to keep her calm. I said, ‘You’re going to be fine. They’re going to come up. They’re going to come get you,'” Bazar said.

It took Summit Rescue Group volunteers about two hours to reach Whyel, who was stranded on a ledge about 1,200 feet up the mountain.

Whyel stayed conscious and awake until just before rescuers arrived, when she was about to pass out, Bazar said.

They bandaged her arm, but it took about another three or four hours to complete the complicated and difficult evacuation.

Rescuers had to rig an anchor system, then rappel Whyel – who was on a litter – down the face of the mountain in a technical high-angle vertical descent.

“When they were bringing us down it was dark and raining and rocks were falling. It was horrible,” Whyel said.

The rescue lasted until about 11 p.m.

In all, Whyel lost about three-and-a-half pints of blood during the nearly seven-hour ordeal.

On Friday morning she was waiting to hear from the doctors on whether she would need a blood transfusion and whether her injured hand would require surgery.

Even so, she feels fortunate that her injuries weren’t worse.

“They said I should’ve been busted up, but it was just my hand. I got way lucky, way lucky,” she said.