Aspen, CO – A hiker suffering from an ankle injury near Capitol Lake was promptly airlifted to safety on Thursday morning, in a coordinated operation between local rescue teams and CareFlight of the Rockies. The injured party, a 52-year-old woman, was transported to a parking lot near the trailhead, marking a successful conclusion to the operation.
The Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center initially received a report of the injured hiker at 9:23 a.m. The message was relayed by a passerby who utilized a Garmin inReach, a two-way satellite communicator, on behalf of the distressed hiker.
Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA), the local search and rescue group, was promptly activated to conduct the rescue operation. Communication between the MRA operations leader and the passerby was maintained throughout via the Garmin inReach.
Capitol Lake is situated 12 miles west of Aspen, just below the difficult class four 14er, Capitol Peak. The 6.4-mile trail leading to the lake from the trailhead parking lot is known for its strenuous climb, gaining 2,105 feet in elevation. Hikers are often challenged by variable weather conditions throughout their journey.
In response to the situation, CareFlight of the Rockies, based in Rifle, was deployed for the rescue. At 10:48 a.m., the helicopter successfully airlifted the injured woman. By 11:59 a.m., all rescue team members were safely out of the field. A total of 17 members were reported to have responded to the incident.
Lessons Learned & Mountain Safety Tips
This incident serves as a poignant reminder for all outdoor enthusiasts of the potential dangers associated with hiking, even for experienced individuals. It highlights the importance of always being prepared for emergencies and offers a few essential safety tips:
Always Carry Essential Equipment: A Garmin inReach or similar device can be a lifesaver in areas with limited cell service. A basic first aid kit, map, compass, and extra food and water are also essential.
Be Prepared for Changing Conditions: Weather in mountainous areas can change rapidly. Dress in layers and carry rain gear, even if the day starts clear.
Know Your Limits: Not all trails are suitable for every hiker. Understand the physical demand of your hike, and make sure it aligns with your abilities.
Don’t Hike Alone: If possible, hike with a partner. If you must hike alone, let someone know your plan and expected return time.
Stay on Marked Trails: This reduces the chance of getting lost and minimizes impacts on the ecosystem.
Hiking offers great health benefits and allows us to connect with nature, but it also requires responsibility. By staying prepared and mindful, hikers can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for themselves and others. Learn more from our complete mountain safety guide.