Snowmobilers rescued after trip near Basalt
February 19, 2002
A missing snowmobiler walked out of the backcountry northeast of Basalt Monday night and was reunited with six friends who were rescued earlier in the evening.
Four of the seven snowmobilers ran into trouble Sunday while heading from Basalt Mountain to Red Table Mountain, according to authorities. They were forced to stay outdoors in chilly temperatures Sunday night.
A second group of three snowmobilers became stranded Monday after they headed out to find their missing friends.
Teams from West Eagle (County) Search and Rescue mobilized at 11 a.m. Monday and located all but the one snowmobiler by nightfall, according to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
As rescue workers and the snowmobilers were converging on a cabin on Upper Cattle Creek Road, the missing man appeared at about 9:30 p.m.
“He left the main group earlier in the day and started walking out,” said Dave Lawson, an Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy and a search and rescue member.
Recommended Stories For You
One of the missing snowmobilers was Larry Madden, owner of the Pride snowboard shop in Aspen, according to authorities. Pride manager Sean Lee said Madden had gone on a trip with three friends he identified as Bob Jackson of Basalt, Jim Gohery of Aspen and Ralph Gunning of El Jebel.
It was unclear which one of the four men walked out on his own Monday night.
Lawson said no medical treatment was being sought for any of the snowmobilers.
“There’s no frostbite, no injuries. They’re just sore and cold,” he said.
Lee said his four friends were experienced snowmobilers who regularly travel into the backcountry. They go prepared with both proper clothing and equipment.
Temperatures dipped into the single digits in higher elevations around the Roaring Fork Valley Sunday night. Light snow was falling at times Monday, with wind and poor visibility at higher elevations.
A popular snowmobile route on Red Table Mountain tops 11,000 feet.
The original group of four left on a snowmobile trip at about 1 p.m. Sunday, according to Lee. They left from a trailhead near Spring Reservoir in Missouri Heights.
Authorities interviewed a witness who saw the group heading to Red Table Mountain via the Toner Creek Trail later Sunday afternoon.
The group encountered an unknown problem somewhere on Red Table Mountain. The group may have run out of gas after getting stuck in deep snow, said Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy John Chiodo.
Three friends of the original group attempted their own search and rescue, according to Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Loya. It is unknown when the second group departed or what trouble they encountered, he said.
The identities of the people in the second group weren’t available from authorities, although it was believed there were two men and a woman.
A friend of the original group called authorities to report the overdue snowmobilers Monday morning. Eagle County mobilized the search team immediately, Loya said.
Six snowmobilers from West Eagle Search and Rescue were initially in the field. Two additional members shuttled gas onto Basalt Mountain to refuel the search sleds last night.
As dusk was approaching, the rescuers found three men from the original group walking down Yeoman Creek, according to Chiodo. Yeoman Creek is a steep drainage that starts from the northwest section of Red Table Mountain and empties into the Cattle Creek drainage.
“They were walking down Yeoman but we’re relaying them now,” Chiodo said Monday evening.
Communication between rescue teams in the mountains and on the valley floor was difficult because of the terrain.
Deputy Lawson said that some team members were walking out of the mountains with the missing snowmobilers. It was uncertain if that meant that some of the rescue sleds were also stuck in deep snow.
The group was converging and warming up at a cabin well past the trailhead on Upper Cattle Creek Road. The cabin owners, the Fender family, granted permission for its use.
It was uncertain as of press time whether the search and rescue teams and the snowmobilers planned to stay at the cabin for the night or were coming down the unplowed road to the trailhead.