Custer County Search and Rescue (CCSAR) was notified by the Custer County Sheriff’s office at 15:25 on Sunday, August 13th, of a hiker who had fallen on Crestone Needle and had a reported lower leg compound fracture. CCSAR was instructed to coordinate with Saguache County SAR and the decision was made to utilize a unified command structure with both counties working to expedite getting resources into the area.
A 42 year old man had reportedly fallen approximately 100 feet. His climbing partner was able to render aid and deployed an emergency bivy sack when a heavy hail storm ensued on the estimated sixty degree slope that the two men were located on, at approximately 13,500’ on Crestone Needle’s south side in Saguache County.
The Colorado Search and Rescue Board (CSRB) was contacted for assistance in deploying the Colorado National Guard (CONG) to assist in the mission. Additional resources were requested, including air ambulance, but weather prohibited the insertion of ground teams and eleven CCSAR personnel departed from Westcliffe to access the subjects from the ground, with another three ground personnel dispatched from Saguache County to assist from the Custer County side, should an air rescue be aborted.
The High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) in Gypsum Colorado, deployed a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter, “Talon 17” at 18:00 hours and arrived in the area at 19:01, with two Vail Mountain Rescue Group technicians aboard. Ground teams had just made their way up Broken Hand Pass in treacherous conditions with deep hail, as the HAATS crew made visual contact with the party and proceeded to hoist the two from the site. The pair were flown to a landing zone at the lower parking area at 20:00 hours and an awaiting Flight for Life helicopter transported the man to an area hospital where he underwent surgery Sunday night. The second man was uninjured and transported back to Westcliffe by ground teams. The mission concluded at 23:40 hours, when CCSAR ground teams returned to their base.
CCSAR would like to remind everyone carry essential items for an emergency, including emergency shelter and first aid items and to be prepared for a night out on the mountain, should darkness or weather delay a rescue. For a list of the “10 essentials” visit https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html.
The PLB that the subject carried was damaged during his fall. He also had a GPS and both had cell phones, which fortunately were working and provided rescuers with critical information.
CCSAR was also called into action on August 1st, in the Great Sand Dunes Park Preserve to assist a man with a displaced tib/fib fracture in the Upper Sand Creek Lakes area and again on August 4th, to the Cottonwood Pass trail below the Lower Sand Creek trail, for a woman who had been thrown from a horse, with suspected lower back and hip injuries. Due to their injuries, Flight for Life and Reach Air assisted in patient evacuations on those call outs, respectively.