2 Hikers in Jeans and Tennis Shoes Lucky to be Alive After Getting Lost in Blizzard Conditions on Colorado’s Highest Peak

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hikers lost, Mount Elbert, colorado, blizzard
Lost in blizzard conditions, wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Credit: Chaffee County Search and Rescue North

Rescuers spent several hours in white-out and blizzard conditions searching for two lost hikers on Colorado’s highest peak last Saturday.

The hikers were at 12,800-feet on Mount Elbert when a blizzard swept in, creating whiteout conditions and causing them to lose the trail. Thankfully, they had cell service and were able to call for rescue.

“These gentlemen were lucky enough to have cell service the entire time and we were able to contact them regularly. Stuck on a pretty steep face and they couldn’t move. Definitely a risky evening for us to even be out there.”

– Josh Adamson, a deputy with Lake County Office of Emergency Management

The hikers made a number of mistakes, according to rescuers. They set off too late in the day and were wearing jeans and tennis shoes, inappropriate clothing.

“They had inadequate footwear, so they had tennis shoes. They were wearing wool socks. One of them was in jeans. It could have been disastrous for them. I will say their odds of survival without us showing up were pretty low.”

– Josh Adamson

One of the hikers lost a tennis shoe in the deep snow, trudging for hours down the mountain in 20º temperatures with just one shoe.

Mount Elbert. At 14,440-feet, Colorado’s highest peak. Credit: Chaffee County Search and Rescue North

By 5 am the next morning, the rescue teams got the hikers off the mountain and into the care of emergency medical staff.

The rescuers reminded hikers that “the consequences for not being prepared are very high,” and it’s important to check the weather conditions before embarking on a trek up a mountain.

“Be prepared for harsh cold weather and shorter days. ALWAYS check the forecast, plan for conditions, and pack the 10 essentials.”

Mount Elbert is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the highest point in the US state of Colorado and the entire Mississippi River drainage basin. The ultra-prominent 14,440-foot fourteener is the highest peak in the Sawatch Range and the second-highest summit in the contiguous United States after Mount Whitney. Mount Elbert is located in San Isabel National Forest, 12.1 miles southwest (bearing 223°) of the City of Leadville in Lake County, Colorado.

Mount Elbert, colorado,
Mount Elbert, CO

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4 thoughts on “2 Hikers in Jeans and Tennis Shoes Lucky to be Alive After Getting Lost in Blizzard Conditions on Colorado’s Highest Peak

  1. Well done SAR crews and first responders.. No doubt you saved their lives.

    I hope those you saved become ambassadors for your efforts and outdoor preparedness.


  2. Good grief! How ignorant can people be!

    I have climbed that mountain………..it’s an enjoyable walk up, but it’s plenty exposed to wind and snow.

    The problem isn’t that they might kill themselves……….it’s a free country, so they have a right to be stupid.

    However, their stupidity risked the lives of people who DO know what to do in the mountains…, in the fall/winter transition period…..the SAR people………and THAT is definitely NOT appropriate!

    Logic would indicate that someone going into the mountains, regardless of the time of year, should read up on safety precautions, gear to have, clothes to wear, etc. Otherwise, the stupidity of assuming that a hike in the mountains is like a walk in the mall will inevitably bite them in the backside.

    I’m GLAD they survived………..I HOPE that others will read about it and make sure they are prepared for what can happen.

    Even in the summer, when my wife and I go out for a day hike, we are prepared to spend the night……and we carry not just a cell phone, but a PLB, along with a serious emergency kit. We hike in the Stanislaus Forest and see people all the time in cotton clothing, tennis shoes, cycle water bottle of fluid, and no day pack.

    It’s just NUTS…………

    All of you reading this, if you are experienced in the mountains, know that everything is beautiful, scenic, mellow, and wonderful……………until it’s not………there is not much middle ground……….things are great…… or uh oh……..

    PLEASE be careful……….dress appropriately…….have emergency gear……have more food than you should need……..have iodine tablets or a straw to make sure you can stay hydrated.

    The mountains/wilderness are incredible…………preparing properly will help keep you alive to enjoy them even more.

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