The Summit County Rescue Group, Colorado saved two stranded hikers on Quandary Peak with an effort that took more than 13 hours and involved 18 rescuers, starting Friday afternoon and continuing into early Saturday morning. A 26-year-old woman and 31-year-old man, both from Texas, were reportedly planning on hiking Quandary Peak’s most traveled route, the East Ridge Trail, on Friday when they ran into problems.
The two started their hike at about 7 am and had a rough idea of how long the trip should take. They were underprepared for deteriorating weather conditions, however. As they ascended the ridgeline, dropping temperatures and snowfall led them to reassess their plans. About 800 vertical feet shy of the 14,265-foot Quandary Peak summit, they decided to retreat down the mountain. During the descent, snowfall caused the hikers to drift off the path and they got stuck in a series of cliff bands.
“We often find that hikers from outside the Rocky Mountain area are surprised at how quickly the weather conditions can change,” said Charles Pitman, spokesman for the Summit County Rescue Group. “In this case, the weather was overcast and chilly in the morning, with occasional showers, but the significant deterioration to the snow storm was unpredicted. As a rescue team, we can’t overstate the necessity of being prepared for such conditions during summer hikes.”
Three teams were sent out, said spokesman Charles Pitman, but because of the extent of the hiker’s injuries and where he fell, a ridgeline between Peaks 2 and 3 at 13,800 feet elevation, the crews opted to request a Black Hawk helicopter from the high-altitude Army National Guard Aviation training site in Gypsum. Black Hawk rescues are somewhat rare for Summit County, said Pitman. Luckily, one was available. The injured hiker was flown to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center. His injuries were serious but not believed to be life-threatening. The rescuers had to hike out Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Summit County Rescue Group were responding to an injured hiker on the Tenmile Trail in the Gore Range on Sunday, and also took reports of a dirt biker who’d wrecked and suffered facial injuries. The dirt bike was ushered out of the backcountry by a private vehicle. It’s been quite a busy summer for the group, Pitman said. They also responded to what was thought to be a hiker using a mirror to call for help, but that turned out to be nothing more than a metal sign reflecting the sun.
“That was three calls all at more or less the same time,” he said, “but we have to check it out because that’s what we do.”
The rescues come after a 67-year-old hiker, later identified as David Law of Casper, WY, died last week when he suffered a heart attack about a half-mile up Quandary Peak.
Quandary Peak was the third-most hiked 14er in the state last year, with an estimated 21,000 hiker use days, according to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, and attracts many novices.