Crestone Needle Rescue

Custer County SAR Successfully Rescues Two Climbers on Crestone Needle

CRESTONE, CO – On August 12, 2023, Custer County Search and Rescue (SAR) was called into action to rescue two climbers stranded at an elevation of 13,800 feet on Crestone Needle, a well-known and challenging peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range.

The climbers found themselves “cliffed-out” in an area characterized by rugged alpine rock and complex terrain, where precise route-finding skills are a necessity. With no defined paths to follow, the mountain’s unpredictable weather conditions, and the inherent difficulty in navigation, the situation became perilous.

However, these climbers had prepared for the unexpected. They were equipped with proper food, water, clothing, and communication means to endure hours (6+) at high elevation. Their preparation was instrumental in ensuring a positive outcome.

The rescue operation was a complex and collaborative effort, involving mutual aid partners such as @canonhelitack, Colorado Search and Rescue Association – CSAR, and Saguache County Search & Rescue. The photos shared by Custer County SAR offer a clear view of the daunting landscape and illustrate the incredible skill and determination required for such a rescue.

All parties involved are thrilled to report a successful rescue with no injuries. Learn more about Custer SAR or make a donation to support them here.

Lessons Learned and Mountain Safety Tips

The incident on Crestone Needle serves as an invaluable reminder of the importance of preparation and awareness when venturing into mountainous terrain, particularly in areas known for their complexity and potential danger.

  1. Proper Planning: Knowing the area’s topography and weather patterns is crucial. Having a map, compass, and the skills to use them can be life-saving.

  2. Equip Yourself: Always carry essential gear such as food, water, proper clothing, and communication devices. A personal locator beacon could make the difference in an emergency.

  3. Understand Your Environment: Alpine areas can be treacherous and unpredictable. Learning about the terrain, and the potential challenges you may face, will help you navigate safely.

  4. Know Your Limits: Recognizing when to turn back or when to call for help is vital. Pushing beyond your abilities can lead to dangerous situations.

  5. Cooperate with Authorities: If you find yourself in need of rescue, follow the instructions from the SAR teams. Your cooperation will make their job easier and enhance your safety.

Crestone Needle’s rescue underscores the importance of being prepared, vigilant, and respectful of the natural environment. The lessons learned from this incident provide a blueprint for all outdoor enthusiasts to follow, ensuring that they can enjoy the wilderness safely and responsibly. Learn more in our comprehensive mountain safety guide.

You can also learn about buying a COSAR card to support the state’s search and rescue teams and volunteers.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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