Aspen-area hiker rescued near Snowmass Lake was sick for days

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

ASPEN — A distressed hiker who was rescued near Snowmass Lake late Tuesday evening and airlifted to Aspen Valley Hospital had been ill since Saturday, a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Wednesday.

“He was dehydrated, he had some injuries to his feet, some potential hypothermia issues, just a combination of things,” Deputy Alex Burchetta said.

The man was identified as Christopher M. Fontaine, 28, of Grain Valley, Missouri. He was treated at the hospital and released in good condition Wednesday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Burchetta said Fontaine had been hiking alone in the area for several days. Other hikers who left the Snowmass Lake area reported his condition and general whereabouts to authorities on Tuesday, and his employer in Missouri also called to report that he was missing when he didn’t show up for work, the deputy said.

“He went into the wilderness on Friday,” Burchetta said. “I understand he had some sickness and resulting dehydration issues on Saturday at some point during the day.”

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The Sheriff’s Office said two Mountain Rescue Aspen teams were sent to the area at about 2 p.m. Tuesday. One team used the Maroon Lake Trail, and another took the Snowmass Creek Trail. They joined forces in the vicinity of the lake shortly after 7 p.m. and located Fontaine at around 8:50 p.m. Each team had two rescuers.

Fontaine’s condition “warranted immediate extrication and medical attention,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. He was airlifted by a Flight for Life helicopter from Frisco that arrived near the lake at about 10:30 p.m.

Nighttime rescues are uncommon because of the added risk, the statement said.

“Due to the reported severity of Mr. Fontaine’s condition, it was deemed necessary to deploy personnel and a helicopter in the dark,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

In all, nine people were involved in the rescue operation, Burchetta said.

The lake, at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet, is on the extreme western edge of Pitkin County near Gunnison County. It is a popular midpoint camping spot for hikers planning to ascend 14,098-foot Snowmass Mountain. The Sheriff’s Office spokesman said he did not know the extent of Fontaine’s intentions in the area.

Snowmass Lake is about 10 aerial miles west of Aspen.

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