Injured Hiker Rescued Near Snowmass Lake in Complex Operation

PITKIN COUNTY, CO – Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA), along with local law enforcement and aviation teams, successfully executed a complex rescue operation Wednesay in the area around Snowmass Lake. The emergency services were alerted to a 61-year-old male hiker who had suffered a severe head injury and was unable to move.

The Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center received the distress call around 3:30 p.m., with communication established with the injured party who had activated the SOS function on his Garmin Inreach device.

By 4 p.m., deputies and MRA members were engaged in the rescue mission. As the location and condition of the hiker posed a complex rescue scenario, a Careflight was deployed at 5:16 p.m., arriving at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport to fly to the hiker’s location.

Given the challenging nature of the rescue, the High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) team was deployed at 5:20 p.m. The HAATS team successfully airlifted the injured hiker from his location and returned to the Aspen/ Pitkin County Airport by 7 p.m.

The hiker was then quickly transported to Saint Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction for treatment of his injuries. All members of the MRA safely returned from the field by 8 p.m., marking the end of the successful rescue operation.

Support SAR teams in Colorado by purchasing a COSAR Card. Learn more here.

Lessons Learned and Mountain Safety Tips

This incident underlines the importance of proper safety measures when hiking in high altitude and complex terrains.

  1. Carry a communication device: In this case, the Garmin Inreach device played a critical role in alerting the authorities to the hiker’s situation. Such devices can send SOS signals even in areas with no cell coverage.

  2. Know your limits: Always consider your physical condition and experience when planning a hike. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions should be especially cautious.

  3. Protect your head: Head injuries can be severe and life-threatening. Wearing a helmet can provide a critical layer of protection, especially when navigating rocky terrains.

  4. Never hike alone: Having a companion can make all the difference in a survival situation. They can provide immediate help and alert authorities if something goes wrong.

  5. Inform others of your plans: Always let someone know your hiking route and expected return time.

Remember, safety should be your top priority when hiking. Always be prepared for unexpected situations and take every possible measure to ensure a safe return home.

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.

Learn more about how we protect public lands and prevent SAR calls through education & advocacy.

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