Woman survives cold night, snow while lost in Hunter Creek Valley | AspenTimes.com

Woman survives cold night, snow while lost in Hunter Creek Valley

Naomi Havlen

An Aspen woman who got lost while running in the Hunter Creek Valley was found Wednesday morning after spending the night in the forest wearing only running shorts and a T-shirt.The 27-year-old woman was found by a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen between seven and eight miles northwest of Aspen in an area bordering the Hunter/Frying Pan Wilderness. She was in good health, according to Joe DiSalvo, head of investigations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.Dressed only in nylon running shorts, a long-sleeve T-shirt and running shoes, the woman spent the night walking around to stay warm while it snowed off and on, but she also occasionally fell asleep on the ground curled up in a ball, DiSalvo said.”She had cuts all over her legs from bushwhacking around,” he said.The woman and her boyfriend are trailrunners who were preparing for a race when they went running Tuesday afternoon up the Hunter Creek trail. DiSalvo said her boyfriend typically runs ahead and then waits for her to catch up, but on Tuesday she veered off the trail unknowingly and ran several miles on another trail without realizing it.DiSalvo said the woman has lived in Aspen only for about two months and had been on the trail a few times before. She went over a ridge, leaving the Hunter Creek Valley at one point, and into a valley near Lenado. DiSalvo said she got turned around and assumed that if she went up that valley she would be heading toward Hunter Creek and Aspen.Instead, she ended up near Bald Knob, at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. Temperatures in Aspen dropped to 38 degrees on Tuesday night. Aspen Police Detective Chris Womack said the woman tried not to sleep too often, afraid she would freeze to death if she slept.”She took good care of herself while she was out – it seemed like she knew what to do,” DiSalvo said. “In the morning she was happy to be home and missing her boyfriend, and she looked a little shaken up after a night out.”Her boyfriend backtracked on the Hunter Creek trail to look for his girlfriend when she didn’t catch up with him Tuesday afternoon and then looked for her back at their home. He called the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office when he couldn’t find her.”We had a lot of people out there – it was one of the bigger searches we’ve had recently,” DiSalvo said.Members of the sheriff’s office and Mountain Rescue Aspen, along with some search dog teams, searched in the area until nightfall Tuesday. The search resumed at daylight Wednesday, assisted by 15 members of Mountain Rescue Aspen on foot and all-terrain vehicles, sheriff’s office deputies and members of the Aspen Police Department, as well as two search dogs and a helicopter.At 10:15 a.m. Wednesday a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen who was searching on a motorcycle came across her on a trail. She was taken back to the Mountain Rescue Aspen cabin on Main Street and given breakfast from the Hickory House.”This just shows how easy it is to get lost out there,” DiSalvo said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail is nhavlen@aspentimes.com