PITKIN COUNTY, CO — An injured hiker tragically succumbed to their injuries after falling over a cliff in a remote area between Heckart Pass and Pierre Lakes Basin, the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center (PCREDC) reported on July 22.
The distress call was received at 10:57 a.m. via Garmin inReach SOS activation, a GPS-based emergency communication device. Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) was promptly activated and put into contact with the hiker’s companion who was able to provide valuable information throughout the ordeal.
The rescue operation involved deploying two MRA members by CareFlight of the Rockies from Rifle, CO near the site at 11:40 a.m. Despite the urgency of the situation, the hiker’s remote location, approximately 12 miles west of Aspen, and 9 miles from the nearest trailhead, added to the complexity of the operation.
To aid in the search, the MRA field members utilized an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to locate the injured hiker. Assistance was also sought from the High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) of the Colorado Army National Guard based in Eagle, CO. They provided a rotary aircraft and personnel to aid in the rescue mission.
Regrettably, by the time the rescue teams located the injured hiker, the individual had passed away from their injuries. With the assistance of HAATS and two MRA rescue technicians, the hiker’s body was recovered using a hoist and returned to Aspen. The remaining MRA team members and the reporting party were subsequently extracted from the site.
This mission involved the participation of 23 MRA members, the Aspen Ambulance District ambulance crew, and the Aspen Hope Center which provided crisis support.
In light of this tragic incident, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office reminded outdoor enthusiasts about the importance of carrying an emergency communication device while venturing into the backcountry.
Colorado’s search and rescue professionals are primarily volunteers who donate their time, gear, and resources and put themselves in harm’s way to rescue those who need help. You can purchase a Colorado SAR Card (COSAR) to help support them.
Lessons Learned and Mountain Safety Tips
While the backcountry areas of Pitkin County offer breathtaking beauty, they can also present significant hazards, particularly for those who venture into remote regions. This tragic event underscores the need for effective planning and preparation before setting off into these areas. Here are a few critical safety tips:
Carry a Communication Device: Carry a GPS-based emergency communication device, such as a Garmin inReach, that can send an SOS and communicate with search and rescue teams even in areas without cell service.
Travel in Pairs or Groups: It’s safer to travel with companions who can provide assistance or alert authorities in case of an emergency.
Learn First Aid: Knowing basic wilderness first aid can make a difference in survival situations.
Stay on Marked Trails: Wandering off established trails increases the risk of accidents and makes it harder for rescue teams to locate you.
Check Weather and Terrain Conditions: Before embarking, gather information about the weather and terrain conditions of your planned route.
Plan for Emergencies: Carry emergency supplies, including a first aid kit, flashlight, whistle, fire-starting materials, and extra food and water.
Remember, nature is unforgiving and unpredictable. The key to safety lies in preparedness, respect for the environment, and constant awareness of your surroundings and abilities. Learn more in our comprehensive mountain safety guide.