SAGUACHE COUNTY, COLORADO — Early this morning, on June 19, 2023, the Saguache County Search & Rescue (SAR) initiated a mutual aid request for the Custer County SAR (CCSAR), as four hikers found themselves in distress on Crestone Needle, one of the most challenging peaks in the Rockies. The distress call, received at 0033 hours, prompted an immediate response from CCSAR, saving the group from a potentially dire situation.
Two members of the group were able to navigate their way back to their camp at South Colony Lakes independently, leaving their two companions stranded on the standard route, separated and unable to continue their descent. However, one of the stranded hikers had the presence of mind to activate his Garmin InReach, a two-way communication device. This timely action facilitated efficient communication with SAR teams and provided them with an accurate location, according to information shared on the Custer County SAR’s Facebook page.
By 0400, CCSAR had fielded a team to climb to the distressed climber’s location and assist in locating the second stranded individual. As the sun rose at 0730, the two stranded climbers were able to reunite and began their descent safely, where they rendezvoused with the awaiting CCSAR team.
Lessons Learned and Safety Tips
This incident is an essential reminder of the potential hazards that hikers, climbers, campers, and bikers may encounter while venturing into the Rocky Mountains. It’s crucial to underscore several lessons learned from this situation and reinforce safety guidelines for outdoor enthusiasts in this region.
Firstly, it is imperative to research thoroughly when planning to ascend and descend using different routes. If descending in the dark poses challenges, it is advisable to stay together as a group and wait until daylight to proceed.
At this time of year, conditions on specific routes like Broken Hand Pass require mountaineering equipment, including ice axes, helmets, and traction devices such as crampons (preferred) or micro-spikes. Despite the season, the temperatures and weather conditions remain spring-like, making hypothermia a real risk.
Lastly, carrying necessary safety and survival gear, including portable battery chargers, two-way communication devices like Garmin InReach, headlamps with extra batteries, is highly recommended. Also, the importance of having appropriate equipment for specific outdoor activities cannot be overstated. Extra provisions, such as food, water, and clothing layers, should always be included in the adventurer’s pack.
Following these guidelines can significantly increase the likelihood of a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of preparedness and the immense value of quick-thinking and effective rescue teams.
Sources: Custer County SAR Facebook Page