• Aug 24, 2022

Chaffee County Search and Rescue–North saved two climbers trapped above treeline as storms rolled through Sunday afternoon, Aug. 14.

The climbers went off route and decided to climb out on the Ellingwood Ridge route of La Plata Peak. They contacted search and rescue after being unable to ascend or descend from their position 200 feet below the ridge.

The climbers reported they were unharmed, only unable to move. They also reported that inclement weather had passed them previously and that more appeared to be headed their way.

CCSAR-N advised the climbers that it could be several hours before they could be rescued due to resource availability and told them to stay where they were.

It was decided that due to the climbers’ location, weather forecast and fading daylight, the best option would be to use a helicopter to insert a team and retrieve the climbers. In the event a helicopter would be unable to fly due to weather, a team was sent by ground to the LaPlata trailhead.

REACH Air Medical Services and Cañon City Helitack were both contacted for assistance. Both of the aircraft carried two CCSAR-N team members directly to the site, Reach dropping two members above the ridge where the climbers were stuck and Helitack dropping two members directly at the climbers’ location.

On site, CCSAR-N determined that the best course of action was to have Helitack extract the climbers from their current position rather than attempt to help the climbers ascend or descend. Search and rescue loaded the climbers into the helicopter and flew them out of the area.

After the two members ascended to meet up with their team on Ellingwood Ridge, they were about to hike out when a strong storm system with lightning was reported about 10 miles from their position.

Cañon City Helitack offered to fly back and retrieve the search and rescue team members after identifying a landing zone on Ellingwood Ridge. Heliteck landed at the area and extracted all CCSAR-N team members.

The climbers were given a ride back to their vehicle at the La Plata trailhead. All members of CCSAR-N were out of the field and safe by 9 p.m. It is unknown if the climbers had Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Search and Rescue cards at this time.

CORSAR cards reimburse the expenses of search and rescue missions by funding the Colorado Search and Rescue Reimbursement Fund. A single year for a CORSAR card costs $3 of which $2 are added to the fund while a 5-year card costs $12 of which $9 are added. For more information on CORSAR cards visit, www.scrg.org/about-us/cosar-card/

“We would like to remind climbers that Ellingwood Ridge is a class 3 climb with significant route finding, exposure and a very high commitment level. Getting off route immediately puts you in class 4 or class 5 territory,” CCSAR said in their Facebook post.