Two climbers rescued after all-night mission on Quandary Peak Monday

Staff report
The Summit County Rescue Group rescued two climbers at Quandary Peak this morning.
Photo Courtesy of Summit County Rescue Group

The Summit County Fourteener Quandary Peak was the scene of an all-night mission to rescue two climbers. The men had ascended via the West Ridge route but, because of snow conditions, had become stranded about 300 feet below the summit.

The Summit County Rescue Group was notified of the situation at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 28. The first team of rescuers departed Command at 9:50 p.m. and summited Quandary early Monday morning, around 1:30 a.m. In addition, Flight for Life was launched just prior to dusk and was able to get a visual fix on the parties to confirm their location.

However, the rescue group’s summit team was unable to actually reach the two individuals during the night.

“Our team at the summit felt that with the darkness, snow conditions, and the location of the stranded parties, a night rescue would be too risky. Several team members spent the night on the mountain with a plan to reassess the situation at first light Monday morning,” said Charles Pitman, the rescue group’s spokesman.

At daylight responders determined that a rescue from the Quandary summit would be very dangerous and other alternatives should be considered. The two primary options were either sending teams up the West Ridge in an attempt to reach the climbers, or trying to obtain air assets from the Army National Guard’s High-Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) in Eagle, Colorado.

The use of HAATS was considered the best alternative considering the risky assent up the West Ridge.

HAATS informed the rescue group that they had the air assets. The plan was to fly to the location and attempt to hoist the parties using what is called a Jungle Penetrator. But such an operation required a trained search and rescue person on board to be lowered to the two men and to place them, individually, in the Penetrator. The Blackhawk landed in Aspen and picked up a qualified member of Mountain Rescue Aspen’s (MRA) search and rescue team.

The Blackhawk was on scene above the climbers at 8 a.m. Monday morning. The MRA rescuer was then lowered to the parties and attached each of them, one at a time, in the hoist device. Once aboard the Blackhawk they were flown to a location in Breckenridge where they were dropped off and returned to Quandary command for a debrief.

All teams were out of the field at 11 a.m. Monday after a strenuous 15 hour operation.

The rescue group would like to remind hikers that there are still winter snow and weather conditions on the peaks above 10,000 feet. It is imperative that backcountry travelers are properly equipped and able to extract themselves out of precarious situations, if at all possible. After last week’s storm, avalanches are still a major concern and parties are advised to be properly equipped with a beacon, probe pole and shovel, and be well versed in their use. It is also advised that those hiking in the mountains be fully aware of when they are getting into a situation that necessitates turning around.