Routt County Search and Rescue member Jay Bowman was swept by an avalanche last Thursday during a night mission on Buffalo Pass. He broke his arm, fractured his leg and sustained a laceration to the head.
Search and Rescue was called out at about 3:45 p.m. Thursday to help a skier and snowboarder who were lost and needed help getting out of the North Fork of the Fish Creek drainage.
The men, who were in their mid-40s, had already visited the area before but were ill-equipped to be in the backcountry. They didn’t have any food, water, light, navigation equipment or avalanche beacons with them.
Four Search and Rescue volunteers left in the dark and were able to meet up with the lost men’s tracks. Aware of the high avalanche danger, they dug a test pit to determine the stability of the snow. Getting to the lost skier and snowboarder implied crossing a known avalanche slide path -that both of the lost men had crossed already-.
“We know that we do take some calculated risks every time we go out on a mission — much less when the avalanche danger is high,” Bowdre said. “It’s a hard thing to do.”
The first two rescuers made it to the other side of the slope. But as Bowman was crossing, he triggerd an avalanche, which swept him about 300 feet down before hitting an aspen tree. Luckily he wasn’t buried, and despite his injuries (mentioned above), the team was able to find him and rescue him. The avalanche was 100 feet across, ran about 600 feet and had a crown of 1 or 2 feet.
Despite the pain, Bowman was able to continue with the group and reach the lost men. He had surgery Friday afternoon and is now recovering. Search and Rescue volunteers don’t get paid for their job.
“We are 100 percent volunteer,” Bowdre said. “We do this because we have a passion for helping people. We really care about our community.”
We’re tired of repeating: IF YOU ARE SKIING THE BACKCOUNTRY, BE RESPONSIBLE AND CARRY APPROPRIATE EQUIPMENT, KNOWLEDGE AND PARTNERS. DON’T DO IT FOR YOU, BUT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PUTTING THEIR LIVES IN RISK TO SAVE YOUR ASS.