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Torreys Peak Rescue Highlights the Need for Skier Safety Precautions

A skier who had fallen and sustained injuries in the Tuning Fork couloir on the northwest side of Torreys Peak was successfully rescued Sunday morning, May 28th, thanks to the collaboration of local emergency response teams. The incident has underscored the inherent risks associated with high-elevation mountain sports and the importance of safety precautions for enthusiasts.

Alpine Rescue Team Rescued an Injured Skier

At 11:00 AM, the Alpine Rescue Team was alerted to the predicament of the fallen skier who was unable to move due to their injuries. The skier had fallen near the top of the couloir, one of the longest 14er snow routes, known for providing up to 3000 feet of continuous snow in spring. Referred to as the “Big-ol-strip-o-snow” by veteran climbers, the Tuning Fork gully is a popular choice for late spring climbs and ski descents due to its high elevation and north-facing slope which allows the snow to consolidate.

The mission to rescue the skier involved lowering them 1000 feet to Grizzly Gulch Road. It was a demanding endeavor due to the waist-deep, unconsolidated snow that the 25 responding team members had to power through in the last section of the carry.

Assisting in the operation were Clear Creek Fire Authority and Clear Creek EMS. The Fire Authority provided invaluable support by using their tracked Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) to transport members and gear up Grizzly Gulch Road. Meanwhile, Clear Creek EMS was responsible for providing patient care to the injured skier.

Lessons Learned From the Rescue

As one of Colorado’s 58 14ers, Torreys Peak is among the most popular choices for hikers and skiers. However, this incident serves as a reminder that even the most frequented routes can pose significant risks if safety precautions are not adhered to.

This rescue operation presents some crucial lessons for other outdoor adventurers:

  1. Preparation is Essential: Ensure you have the necessary equipment, and adequate food and water supplies before embarking on your climb or ski journey. Check the condition of your gear, especially safety equipment.

  2. Check Weather and Avalanche Reports: Be aware of the weather and avalanche forecasts before setting out. Conditions in mountainous regions can change rapidly and dramatically, making it essential to stay informed.

  3. Know Your Limits: Be aware of your physical limitations and technical skills. High-altitude routes, such as the Tuning Fork couloir, can present serious challenges even to experienced hikers and skiers.

  4. Emergency Training: Have basic knowledge of first aid and understand the protocols for calling in a rescue. Having the means to communicate your location to rescue teams could prove lifesaving.

These lessons and the incident at Torreys Peak underscore the importance of adhering to safety precautions while enjoying high-elevation mountain sports. Preparation, understanding personal limits, and awareness of changing conditions can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.

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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