Rescue group reacts after climbers hit by falling rocks and snow

A Flight for Life helicopter lands at the intersection of Colorado Highway 9 and Blue Lakes Road on July 26, 2019. Flight for Life and the Summit County Rescue Group responded to a call on Sunday, June 6, after mountaineers took over. were injured on Torreys Peak.
Summit County Rescue Group photo

Rescuers responded to a frightening incident on Torreys Peak on Sunday morning after a group of climbers were caught in a rock and snow slide. No one was seriously injured in the incident.

At around 9 a.m. on Sunday June 6, a group of climbers were walking up the Dead Dog Corridor on the east face of Torreys Peak when they were hit by a mixture of rockfall and snow, according to Dale Atkins, a specialist. technical. with the Alpine rescue team. Fortunately, none of the larger boulders collided with any of the climbers.

“There were rocks that fell,” Atkins said. “Some of them were actually quite a good size, up to several feet in diameter. Fortunately, none of these rocks hit anyone. But when stones fall this big, they tend to trigger and knock snow, and we end up with avalanches of loose, wet snow. …

“At this time of year, the slopes facing east are very sunny in the morning and heat up very quickly. The snow did not freeze (Saturday) overnight so it was soft and wet from the rain (Saturday). It became unstable probably faster than the group expected.

Atkins said the group was training for a greater ascent of an ice peak in the Pacific Northwest, and he noted that the 40-degree slope they were training on was appropriate for those looking to take on greater challenges. However, he said the climbers were late “according to Mother Nature’s clock.”

Rescuers from the Alpine Rescue Team and Summit County Rescue Group responded alongside the Flight for Life helicopters, but upon arrival, the group members were refused medical transportation and were able to leave on their own, according to Mike. Everist, chef de mission of the Alpine Rescue Team. . A climber was struck by moving debris and fell a short distance down the slope, according to a report published Sunday afternoon by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Two climbers were struck by rocks and another was injured. The group was able to provide first aid to the injured person.

“Our initial page was for five injured, at least two seriously injured and three slightly injured, all caught in a rock and snow slide,” Everist said. “That’s why we also asked for help from the Summit County Rescue Group and Flight for Life. Summit sent us, I think, 10 members, which was fantastic. We really appreciate the response from them, but once we got there… we determined the injuries were in fact minor.

Charles Pitman, spokesperson for the Summit County Rescue Group, said calls for responses have steadily increased in the area as the county comes out of sludge season. He said Sunday’s incident was a good reminder that recreationists need to be aware of avalanche danger no matter what time of year it is, and as more and more people start heading backwards -summit country this summer, he urged community members to be careful.

Pitman recommended all backcountry users wear a GPS device or download a good GPS app to their phones before leaving, noting that many calls from the rescue group are from people who have lost track.

“We get a lot of calls like that,” Pitman said. “This is especially true because Summit County has a lot of social trails, the ones that aren’t official US Forest Service trails, that people will take ownership of. The busy areas will instead of a single path that goes from point A to point B,… trails everywhere. If you know them that’s okay, but if you’re new to the area you might not be sure where to go. … A good mapping program would help solve a lot of these problems so that people don’t feel so anxious.

Pitman continued to stress that backcountry users should always check the weather before heading out, bring extra food and water, and be realistic about the length of their absence so that family members or friends don’t call unnecessarily for search and rescue.

“We take quite a few calls throughout the year from people who are concerned when someone they know was supposed to be back at a certain time and a few hours later they still haven’t come back. “Pitman said. “Most of the time it’s just because a two hour hike turned into a five hour hike. … Especially when you’re high up and you’re not from that area, all of a sudden the hike gets tougher than you might think when you started earlier in the day. So be realistic, and if it takes you longer, prepare for climate change. “


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