Unprepared hiker frustrates Mountain Rescue | AspenTimes.com

Unprepared hiker frustrates Mountain Rescue

Steve Benson

Members of Mountain Rescue Aspen who endured an all-night effort to transport a woman complaining of frostbitten feet out of the Conundrum Valley last week may have been misled by initial reports of her condition.

Scott Messina of Mountain Rescue Aspen said a group of hikers contacted the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department around noon Thursday, saying a woman at Conundrum Hot Springs had told them her feet were frostbitten and she was unable to walk.

The sheriff’s department and 18 members of mountain rescue responded to the call. They reached the woman, identified as Wendy Goldsmith, 25, of Nederland, until 9 p.m.

Messina said her condition was not as severe as initially thought.

“The initial medical information directed us to believe there was a high sense of urgency [in rescuing her],” he said. “The medical condition of her feet … wasn’t anywhere near what the info we had.

“This was someone crying wolf.”

The rescue effort ended shortly after 5 a.m. Friday, at which time Goldsmith was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital and released “15 minutes later,” Messina added.

The fact Goldsmith was not as bad as believed frustrated rescuers who carried her on a litter while battling darkness, stream crossings and areas of snow.

“It was a long ways in there, and approximately three miles [from the hot springs] was unconsolidated snow – people were post-holing through it,” Messina said. “It was a very challenging rescue, a lot of hard work for a lot of people.”

Goldsmith had left for the hot springs – about nine miles from the Conundrum Valley trailhead – on Wednesday in a pair of snow clogs. According to Messina, she ditched her pack part way up the trail and eventually spent the night in the hot springs. The following morning, she contacted other campers in the area, claiming she couldn’t walk.

“She basically did not take responsibility for her actions,” Messina said. “The big take-home thing is for people to be prepared when they go out there.

“Expect everything this time of year.”

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com

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