History: High-country rescue | AspenTimes.com

History: High-country rescue

“Ordeal of local sheep herders is told in magazine” recounted The Aspen Times in March of 1962. “Snow-blindness high in the Snowmass wilderness country almost resulted in the death by freezing for two sheep herders over the Labor Day weekend, according to a two-page article in the Jan. 21 Family Weekly, nationally distributed Sunday newspaper supplement. Recounted by news media in the area shortly after it happened, the story tells the ordeal of Joe Vigil and Joe Chacon who became snow-blind while trying to bring sheep down from the 13,000 ft level in the severe blizzard early in September. Before their eyes shut from the dazzling glare of the sun on snow, the herders saw long, white tails on stars. They had double vision and the landscape danced. Finally locating the horses which they had turned free, the herders abandoned the sheep and, hoping that their horses would find the way, headed down to the valley. They were rescued by Stuart Mace, who was not identified by name in the article. Days of rest in Pitkin County Hospital restored their vision and the herders returned to their flocks in the high country.”

This photograph shows an aspen tree with the name of a Basque sheep herder carved in it: “Paiomio Chacon ’58, Fruita, Colo,” possibly related to Joseph Chacon.

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