John Cameron, The Mountain Mail, November 22, 2016
Chaffee County Search and Rescue North assisted three distressed hikers on three separate missions over the weekend. The missions were the first in more than 1½ months for the rescue group, which reported a busy summer season. From August to September the rescuers were averaging about one mission every other day, said Scott Anderson, vice president of Chaffee County Search and Rescue North.
Rescuers responded to a solo hiker from Virginia who called Search and Rescue around 8 p.m. Friday after becoming disoriented and cold while attempting a traverse from Mount Harvard to Mount Columbia, roughly 7 miles northwest of Buena Vista.
A headlamp the hiker was carrying failed and he was not prepared for the conditions, said Anderson. He was fortunate to have cell service, he said.
Rescuers were able to instruct the hiker over the phone to descend into Frenchman’s Creek drainage.
Teams of four rescuers each were sent into Frenchman’s Creek drainage and Three Elk drainage to search for the hiker.
At 1:15 a.m. rescuers in Frenchman’s Creek reached the hiker, who was able to signal to rescuers by using a red light setting on his headlamp, said Anderson. The hiker reported being cold and tired but uninjured.
By 5:30 a.m. everyone was out of the field, he said.
Shortly after assisting the distressed hiker on the Harvard-Columbia traverse, a woman with a broken leg at nearby Harvard Lakes made phone contact Saturday with a member of Chaffee County Search and Rescue North. The rescue group was not paged to assist the woman.
A rescuer already in the area on horseback was able to assist the woman to medical care.
Late Saturday night, Chaffee County Search and Rescue North received a call for an overdue hiker on Mount Yale. A group of three hikers from Missouri had split up near the summit of the 14,200-foot peak, with two hikers in the group turning around and one hiker continuing to the top around 2 p.m. Saturday.
Chaffee County Search and Rescue North responded at 6 a.m. Sunday by sending four teams of two up different possible routes.
“We were not able to start the search until early the next morning when we had more information about where the overdue hiker might be,” said Anderson.
Shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday the overdue hiker was met by rescuers as he walked down the main trail from the summit, uninjured after spending the night near 13,000 feet.
“He spent the night with what little he had and that wasn’t much,” said Anderson.
Anderson recommends anyone hiking during any time of year to be prepared to spend the night outside.