Couple who got caught in a blizzard on Mt. Evans pen memoir, visit Edwards | VailDaily.com

Couple who got caught in a blizzard on Mt. Evans pen memoir, visit Edwards

Sarah Taylor
Special to the Daily

EDWARDS — Out-of-state peak baggers pop up in droves every June, while local climbers and hikers more familiar with all of the Colorado 14ers wonder which routes will be less traveled this summer. But everyone on the mountain has heard of a few close calls and tragedies.

On Thursday at the Bookworm of Edwards, husband-and-wife duo Brad and Melissa McQueen will talk about their overnight adventure on Mt. Evans, chronicled in their memoir "Exposed: Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing." The book centers on the story of their survival when they found themselves stranded in a blizzard.

Both Brad and Melissa have spent the majority of their lives in Colorado. Brad hiked his first 14er in 1998 — summiting Mt. Belford with his father. Melissa's love of hiking began when she met Brad.

The couple hiked Mt. Evans with Brad's father at the end of May in 2001.

"It was a training hike," Brad explained. "We had been watching the weather and actually moved our hike up a day to accommodate for a storm that was supposed to hit our original date."

CRITICAL MISTAKES

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They started hiking at 6:30 a.m., covering a significant distance before Melissa noted their first mistake.

"We were well on our way, when she pointed out one of the landmarks of Mt. Evans," Brad said. "However, the landmark was on the next peak over, not on the one we were hiking. We immediately corrected our course, but had lost so much time."

They bagged the peak around 3 p.m., another crucial mistake. From the summit, they could see the storm they had planned to avoid rolling in with a vengeance.

They began their descent on the West Ridge, but in the fast-moving weather they became lost and disoriented. Then they waded into a unexpected creek. Now soaked and freezing, the team accepted that they would have to spend the night, waiting until morning to seek help.

Though all three of them recognized the risk and the danger of their situation, Melissa said they didn't panic.

"Hypothermia is great because you don't have enough blood running to your head to be afraid," she said. "None of us were together enough to be worried."

The release of their book has been a wild journey, too. Written as an encouragement and caution to the reader, the story is as revealing of the couple's vulnerabilities as it is an adventure.

"The book started when I looked back at a five- or six-page journal entry written by Melissa shortly after that night," Brad said. "She wrote everything down as a part of her mental healing. The book is truly a collection of both of our memories from that night."

They've had an amazing response so far, and the couple is donating half of all proceeds from book sales to support outdoor nonprofit organizations, such as search and rescue.

"We have tried to acknowledge the mistakes we made in hopes of preparing others who will attempt 14ers in the future," Melissa said.

Brad wants to emphasize how much "respect a 14er deserves. It's an attitude we've learned to adopt and want others to see its importance."

Sarah Taylor works at the Bookworm of Edwards. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.

If you go …

What: Book signing with Brad and Melissa McQueen, authors of “Exposed: Tragedy and Triumph in Mountain Climbing.”

When: 6 p.m. Thursday.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards.

Cost: $10.

More information: Call 970-926-READ.