June 29, 2019 Facebook Post by Custer County SAR

On June 26th, 2019 at approximately 1945, Custer County Search and Rescue (CCSAR) was contacted by Suguache County Search and Rescue requesting that CCSAR assist with, and ultimately, assume Incident Command (IC) of a search for an overdue hiker presumed to be in the Willow Creek/Kit Carson area. The Custer County Sheriff’s Office approved the mutual aid request and IC was officially transferred from Saguache SAR to CCSAR at 2130. CCSAR’s Incident Management Team (IMT) worked through the night to organize a thorough search plan and requested additional assistance through the Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSRA). At 0500 on the 27th, CCSAR members met at CCSAR’s Base in Westcliffe for a briefing and then sent 5 members by vehicle to Crestone with a search assignment of Willow Creek. Chaffee County Search and Rescue North and South (two independent teams), initially volunteered 5 members to assist in clearing upper Willow Creek with ground members as well as a UAV/Drone team. Several of these members were to be inserted into upper Willow Creek drainage by REACH Air Medical Services (REACH). Meanwhile, three CCSAR technical climbers were to be picked up in Westcliffe and lift ticketed into Spanish Creek by Flight for Life (FFL) with the goal of clearing the upper drainage and observing the numerous couloirs and slopes around Kit Carson’s “The Prow” feature. During the 1st insertion of a CCSAR member, the subject was observed deceased on a 35 degree snow slope approximately 1,000 feet below the saddle of Challenger and Kit Carson. Four additional CCSAR members and one Chaffee County Search and Rescue-North member were flown in to a landing zone in upper Spanish Creek and ascend to, then retrieved, the subject. The operation required lowering over 1,200 feet to where FFL extracted the subject. The combined SAR team members safely hiked to the bottom of Spanish Creek and were retrieved by additional CCSAR members concluding the in-field portion of the mission.

We wish to express our appreciation to all of our SAR and EMS colleagues who assisted with this mission. Additionally, CCSAR and our colleagues offer our sincere condolences to the friends and family of the subject. We hope you are able to share many fond memories and stories of the subject’s times in the mountains and with you all, wherever that may have been.

CCSAR would be remiss if, after such a tragedy, we did not take a moment to remind our friends, family and supporters that Colorado mountains are beautiful yet hazardous and conditions in many areas are treacherous for this time of year. Please take the time to research your desired route and the associated conditions, consider your skill sets and equipment, prepare for and pack for an unplanned bivy, leave a detailed itinerary with a trusted friend or family member, and monitor weather before and during your outing. Please remember your last resort is to turn around if the route and/or the environmental conditions exceed your skill or comfort level. Finally, consider supporting Colorado SAR efforts by making a donation to your local volunteer SAR team and/or purchasing a CORSAR card (https://www.colorado.gov/dola/search-and-rescue-fund) which helps offset the costs incurred by volunteer SAR teams during a mission. You can purchase a 1-year or 5-year card by clicking on the link above or from many local retailers across the state.