The Custer County Sheriff’s office received a 911 call at 08:54 on Thursday, August 27th, from a Dallas man, who said his 75 year old hiking partner had left camp on Wednesday morning at 07:30, to hike Humboldt Peak on his own. He did not return to camp that night. The reporting party (RP) hiked out of camp on Thursday morning, in order to obtain a cell phone signal to notify authorities.
CCSAR was alerted at 09:00 and a team of two CCSAR members working with Colorado Forensic Canines in the lower S. Colony drainage, was re-assigned to do a hasty search of Humboldt Peak. The reporting party (RP) indicated that the two had been packed into the area the prior weekend, by a local outfitter. A guide at Bear Basin Packtrips confirmed that the two were clients who had been dropped in the North Colony Basin.
A two person ATV team and 2nd two person ground team were deployed; the ATVs from the north and the ground team approaching the trail head from the south. CCSAR Ground Team 2 made initial contact with the RP and brought him to the Rainbow Trail where he was transported to Westcliffe. Ground Team 2 then began hiking to the party’s campsite. A horse team was also activated to aid in the search.
Additional resources from Saguache County and Western State Mountain Rescue Team (WSMRT) were requested, with ten members of WSMRT arriving at 16:00 hrs. Four additional CCSAR members were approaching from the S. Colony Basin, with the intention of crossing into the North Colony Basin via the saddle and beginning a search from the 4th lake downward, towards the campsite. Lifeguard 4 made an aerial search of the area when weather cleared and spotted the campsite, but not the subject, via the air search.
At 16:20, the Hasty Team made contact with the subject at his campsite. He reported that he had been caught in a rain and hail storm on Wednesday and during his descent. He also said that he had fallen a short distance and that he spent a chilly night out under a tree. The subject was able to get back to camp on his own on Thursday. He also had provisions to remain in camp. All teams were stood down at 16:33. The mission concluded at 21:45, when all members were back at quarters. In addition to 22 field personnel, an additional four staffed command and logistics roles at search base.
A similar situation occurred in Saguache County, Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday night. The SAGSAR mission was safely completed before midnight with two males being “text” guided off Kit Carson in the same storm while lost, including self-extrication and descent of the Spanish Creek drainage.
Local SAR Teams had a hectic weekend in the region, with mission callouts beginning Friday night and running through Sunday evening. Friday afternoon at approximately 15:00 hours Custer County received a 911 call from a hiker with a possible broken ankle. Heavy storms had just hit the area and the New Orleans man was requesting assistance via his cell phone. As CCSAR was working to determine his exact location, a SPOT beacon was activated in the same area. That notification was relayed to Saguache County and it initially appeared that there were two incidents in the Cottonwood Basin area. After making contact with the subject via cell phone, rescuers were able to determine that the parties were together and that the hiker had fallen in the Red Gully while descending Crestone Peak.
With Saguache SAR as IC, Custer County SAR fielded a two person hasty team who accessed the subject, moved him to a landing zone in the basin and then spent a chilly night in the field with their patient. A second CCSAR team headed in to assist the first team, leaving Westcliffe at 03:00 Saturday. Flight for Life’s Air Guard 3 picked up the injured man at 08:30, for transport to an area hospital and members were back at base by 13:10 Saturday afternoon.
Saguache County received two additional callouts as the first incident was winding down, both on Kit Carson Peak. The first was for an overdue climber who had not been seen in over twenty four hours, followed by a call from a three party team that was disoriented/lost. They had descended the Spanish Creek drainage, instead of the standard Kit Carson descent. These missions were both completed Saturday afternoon without injury. Flight for Life was used by Saguache County in the search for the overdue climber, with no contact. He was later located through interviews with other climbers before being met by the Saguache SAR Hasty Team at the Willow Lake camping area.
Saturday evening saw another brief and intense storm over the area and Custer County received two 911 calls from a party of two stranded while descending Broken Hand Pass in heavy rains, hail and severe lightning. Custer SAR IC was able to contact those subjects via text message and relay radar information to the pair, who ultimately hunkered down for a short time and then were able to self- rescue, getting back to their campsite at the lower lake in the South Colony basin.
Sunday, members of the Technical Rope Rescue Team spent five hours training at Lake DeWeese, practicing rigging and low angle lowering scenarios. While en-route back to base, a callout for a climber with a possible broken wrist and broken finger was received and a hasty team of two was dispatched from the members returning from training. The CCSAR Hasty Team made contact with the 33 year old man from Lonetree CO and a bystander who had been assisting him, as they were walking out the closed section of the four wheel drive road above the trailhead. He had ascended Crestone Peak, then traversed to Crestone Needle, falling twice on the decent. He was transported by the Good Samaritan to an area hospital and discharged on Tuesday. The hasty team then went directly to the Gibson Creek Trailhead, on a vehicle locate for an overdue Pueblo West man and his two son’s ages 13 and 11, who had gone back packing on Friday evening and had failed to meet family members as planned. The trio hiked out, uninjured. They had been delayed by Sunday afternoon’s storms.
CCSAR would like to remind everyone to please plan ahead and pay close attention to the weather and all forecasts. Always get an exceptionally early start and be prepared in the back country for an overnight emergency bivy, if necessary. Emergency survival gear, such as a light weight emergency bivy sack, extra food, water and a headlamp with extra batteries are always a good idea.
On the afternoon of July 24th, Custer County Search and Rescue provided first aid and transportation to a distressed hiker on the Rainbow Trail just north of Gibson Trailhead. The Custer County Sheriff’s Office had received a call at 15:30 that afternoon from Michael Baggett, an injured man who reported being out of contact with his party for over three hours. Shortly after that Baggett called Search and Rescue directly with his location. He reported a twisted ankle and was unable to walk further. At 17:20, SAR dispatched 3 ATVs to rendezvous with Baggett. The ATVs reached the injured party a short time later, applied first aid, and transported Baggett to Gibson Trailhead, where he was met by a companion in her vehicle. Baggett was transferred to the vehicle and he and his companion departed the scene.