Rocky Mountain National Park Rescues Injured Climber in High-Altitude Operation
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), in a significant search and rescue mission, successfully saved a 37-year-old male climber from Fort Collins, Colorado, on May 21 after a 30-foot fall on the mixed-climbing route on Taylor Peak.
At approximately 13,158 feet, Taylor Peak poses a significant challenge to climbers and rescue operations alike. Notably, the peak, located northwest of the well-known Longs Peak and close to The Sharkstooth rock formation and Sky Pond, is a favored climbing destination that lies 7 miles from its trailhead.
The accident, which occurred in the afternoon, prompted an immediate response from park rangers and emergency services. Information of the incident reached park rangers via a satellite communication device, allowing for a swift assembly of the rescue team.
Understanding the complexities of the terrain and the severity of the injuries sustained by the climber, park officials requested aid from Northern Colorado Med Evac air ambulance and the Colorado National Guard. The Med Evac air ambulance collaborated with the RMNP Search and Rescue team to conduct air reconnaissance, a critical step in locating the fallen climber.
With daylight receding, the gravity of the situation necessitated an unconventional approach for the rescue. A helicopter from Buckley Air Force Base, part of the Colorado National Guard, was brought in to execute a hoist operation. The procedure involved the use of a winch-operated cable to airlift the climber from the challenging mountain terrain.
The helicopter hoist operations received support from the experienced team at Rocky Mountain Rescue. Through the concerted efforts of all parties, the successful extrication of the injured climber was achieved at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Following the hoist operation, the climber was flown to Upper Beaver Meadows, where he was quickly transferred to a waiting ground ambulance. The ground ambulance facilitated his transport to Estes Park Health for further medical care. The park has not disclosed the climber’s name or the specifics of his injuries.
This incident marks the first large-scale search and rescue operation of the season in the park and serves as a poignant reminder for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. As the park’s popularity continues to soar, safety remains paramount. Park authorities implore visitors to familiarize themselves with climbing techniques, use safety gear, and stay informed about weather conditions and route challenges, a proactive approach to risk mitigation.
With the warmer season approaching, the park is expected to attract more visitors. However, this incident is a stark reminder of the risks inherent to outdoor activities, even for experienced adventurers. As rivers surge and trails become busier, all are reminded to exercise caution and prioritize safety.
Alex 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.