BUENA VISTA – Chaffee County Search and Rescue North successfully rescued a woman climber Sunday.
The group began rescue efforts Sunday morning after receiving a report of a fallen climber, somewhere off Cottonwood Pass Road, President Scott Anderson said.
A Colorado woman in her early 30s was rescued after she fell around 300 feet down a couloir at 11,000 feet elevation just west of Ptarmigan Lake and almost directly south of Turner Peak.
Anderson said aside from minor lacerations and some bumps and bruises, the woman was fine.
“They had progressed halfway down, and (the woman) was transitioning from face in to face out when she tripped. Her axe got tangled in her puffy jacket and she was unable to arrest. By the time she detangled her axe and had almost gotten upright, she tumbled on rocks and continued her fall for a total of about 300 feet before she stopped on soft snow,” Anderson said.
The hiking party began their ascent around 4 a.m. and started the descent just after 7:30 a.m., allowing for ample climbing time and well before springtime thunderstorms begin, Anderson said.
The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office received a phone call about the fallen hiker just before 10 a.m. from her partner, who had dug out a trench for her before descending down the pass to Cottonwood Hot Springs, where he was able to get cellphone reception.
“Two snowmobilers were able to get in partway, then climbed up to help get her to the side of the couloir, when a CCSAR-N technical team arrived.
“Twenty-three CCSAR-N members responded to the mission … the snow evacuation involved six pitches over 1,100 feet, and the subject was en route to the hospital by 1 p.m.,” Anderson said.
Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services and Colorado Parks and Wildlife were also involved in the rescue.
The climbing party had parked north of the Denny Creek Trailhead and had driven as far as the fourth switchback up Cottonwood Pass Road before starting the climb, Anderson said.
There wasn’t much else the party could have done differently, Anderson said, noting it was just an unfortunate accident.
“I think from everything we got from them, they basically did everything right. It was just an accident. The only thing they could have done to expedite the rescue was to have some kind of personal locator beacon,” Anderson said.
While the party was equipped for the climb and started their ascent in the early morning hours, Anderson said they did not have a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card, meaning Search and Rescue will not be reimbursed for any expenses related to this particular mission.
“When people we rescue have the cards, then we get reimbursed for our rescue expenses. Rescues are never a cost to anyone rescued,” Anderson said.
CORSAR cards cost $3 per year or $12 for five years and are included in the purchase of Colorado hunting or fishing licenses. To purchase one, visit dola.colorado.gov/sar/orderInstructions.jsf.