Custer County Search and Rescue was notified at 22:46, on 26 December, of an overdue hiker in Saguache county. The Crestone man was 25 y.o. and had his friends drop him off at the Baca Grande trailhead at 01:00 on 12/25. He was poorly equipped with khaki pants and a hoodie. His friends gave him additional gear that included a tarp, a summer rated sleeping bag, sweat pants, a snowmobile suit and a shopping bag containing pistachio seeds.
Saguache county SAR initiated the search on 12/25 at 11:00. There were clues of tracks and pistachio shells. On 12/26 a team of 3 made it to the cave above Willow lake, approximately 1/3 of the way between the two lakes, and saw tracks continuing beyond their location. At 15:30 they turned back, returning to base at 20:30.
CSRB (Colorado Search and Rescue Board) was called for additional resources for day three. Custer County SAR deployed three members at 06:00 on 12/27 and they arrived in Saguache County at 08:00. The team was asked to stand by as a Blackhawk helicopter from Denver was to be dispatched at 08:00. It was reported that the snow in the Willow lake area was waist deep. The Saguache Sheriff wanted to keep the Custer and Alamosa search teams available as ground resources to deploy via the Blackhawk if required.
The Blackhawk radioed in that they had the subject “alive, hypothermic and with no gloves on.” The subject was picked up by the Blackhawk at an elevation of 12,000 feet where temperatures were below zero both nights. An ambulance was standing by and the subject was treated for hypothermia but did not need to be transported to a hospital. Custer Search and Rescue’s team arrived back in town at 12:35.