3 Women Hikers Airlifted Out of Maroon Bells Snowmass, CO Wilderness After Using Beacon to Raise Alarm

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Helicopter rescue. Credit: MRA

Three women had to be airlifted from the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness in Colorado Tuesday after one of them became injured. The group raised the alarm by activating a personal locator emergency beacon near Avalanche Lake in Pitkin County.

According to initial reports, three women had been hiking the 38.6-mile Capitol Creek Loop to Haystack Mountain. They started the hike on Saturday at 4 pm and planned to finish on Thursday. The loop involves more than 12,000-feet of elevation gain.

Based on a number of factors, the decision was made for a two-person team to fly into the site by way of a High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) helicopter, reports the Aspen Daily News. Sheriff’s office director of operations Alex Burchetta said these factors included that the locator beacon was not moving and sheriff’s office officials were able to make contact with hiking party family members, who indicated the hikers had backcountry experience and would not trigger the emergency locator beacon without due cause. The locator beacon used in this instance did not allow communication between the rescuers and the distressed parties other than their location.

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Capitol Creek Loop. Credit: AllTrails.com

Around 7:50 pm, the team found the three woman — including a 24-year-old with a leg injury — at the location where the emergency beacon was activated. The injured woman was brought to the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, where she was evaluated and released by Aspen Ambulance medical personnel. The helicopter returned to the Avalanche Lake area to pick up the other two women.

The rescue involved 18 volunteers from Mountain Rescue Aspen, the High Altitude Aviation Training Site, Aspen Ambulance, and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office is reminding hikers who visit Colorado’s backcountry to always be prepared with gear and provisions and to understand the conditions of the area they’re recreating around.

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