San Miguel Search and Rescue

San Miguel Search and Rescue Responds to Two Falls Within 24 Hours

TELLURIDE, CO – In less than 24 hours, deputies, San Miguel County Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel, and Telluride Fire Protection District Fire and EMS teams faced two harrowing incidents that resulted in injuries due to falls in the area outside of Telluride.

The first incident occurred at Lower Ames Falls, involving a 19-year-old female victim who fell into a gorge while camping with a group of friends. After a three-hour rescue mission involving ropes and a litter, she was transported to the Telluride Regional Medical Center where she received treatment for her injuries.

The second incident was even more perilous as a 78-year-old woman from Texas fell 30-40 vertical feet off a cliff near Hastings Mesa. She was engaged in photography with friends at an observation lookout when the tragic accident occurred, landing her in scree with multiple traumatic injuries. The rescue involved coordination with CareFlight, which transported her to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters expressed his concerns over the increase in backcountry rescues, citing a surge in outdoor recreation in Colorado. As reported in an interview with the Montrose Press, he said, “It can happen to any person, no matter the skill level.” The Sheriff’s Office has hired two part-time search and rescue coordinators to handle these incidents, often involving cooperation with helicopter services, including the department’s own high-altitude chopper.

Mountain Safety Lessons Learned and Tips

  1. Stay Aware of Surroundings: Ensure that you are aware of your environment, especially near cliff edges or steep terrains. A momentary lapse in attention can lead to devastating consequences.

  2. Use Appropriate Gear: Proper footwear and equipment can increase stability and reduce the risk of slips or falls.

  3. Know Your Limits: Age, experience, or even excitement should never lead you to overestimate your abilities in the wilderness.

  4. Travel With Others: If possible, travel with a group and keep an eye on each other. Friends can help assess risks and provide assistance if needed.

  5. Seek Local Guidance: Acquaint yourself with local regulations, weather conditions, and potential hazards. Local authorities or guides can provide invaluable insights into what to expect.

These incidents are a sobering reminder of the inherent risks of outdoor adventure, even for those with experience. As Colorado’s August becomes a peak season for SAR teams, all outdoor enthusiasts must approach their activities with caution and respect for the natural environment. Support SAR 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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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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