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Frying Pan River Rescue

Dramatic Midnight Rescue in Pitkin County Saves Hunter from Serious Altitude Sickness Episode

PITKIN COUNTY, COLORADO — A 43-year-old male hunter was successfully rescued late Sunday night after he suffered from acute altitude sickness near Little Deadman Creek, located in the upper Frying Pan River valley at approximately 10,000 feet. The incident, reported in a press release from the Pitkin County Sheriff Department, showcases the perils of altitude-related ailments and the complexity of rescue missions in Colorado’s rugged terrains.

On October 29, 2023, at 7:21 PM, the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center received a distress call via a Garmin satellite communications device. The caller reported that a hunter was experiencing severe symptoms, including shortness of breath, chills, and rapidly declining health, rendering him incapable of walking or riding out of the backcountry.

In response to the call, Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) initiated a rescue mission at 9:53 PM, deploying a four-person team to locate and assist the ailing hunter. About an hour later, a second four-person MRA team was sent into the field to aid in the rescue operation. Both teams collaborated with a horse team from the outfitters managing the hunting camp. A helicopter rescue was ruled out due to inclement weather conditions.

The MRA rescuers reached the patient and his companion at approximately 1:00 AM, whereupon they assessed his condition and stabilized him. Afterward, they transported him back to the trailhead on horseback. There, paramedics from Roaring Fork Fire Rescue took over for further medical evaluation. However, the patient declined to be transported to the hospital, opting instead to leave in his personal vehicle under the care of his companion.

Lessons Learned and Safety Tips

This incident underscores the unpredictable and hazardous nature of outdoor activities in high-altitude areas. For anyone planning similar excursions, here are some key safety considerations:

Altitude Sickness Awareness

  1. Acclimate Properly: Allow your body to adjust to higher elevations by spending a few days at a lower altitude before moving up.

  2. Recognize Symptoms: Know the symptoms of altitude sickness—headaches, nausea, and fatigue are common signs.

  3. Hydration: Keep well-hydrated. Lack of water exacerbates altitude sickness symptoms.

Emergency Preparedness

  1. Satellite Communication Devices: Always carry a reliable means of communication that doesn’t rely on cellular coverage.

  2. First Aid and Supplies: Always carry a first-aid kit and familiarize yourself with basic medical procedures, especially when venturing into isolated areas.

  3. Weather Forecast: Always check the weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes in conditions.

By being aware and prepared, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. Learn more by reviewing our comprehensive mountain safety guide. You can support Colorado search and rescue teams by purchasing a COSAR card.

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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