When people die in Colorado’s outdoors, sometimes friends are the ones to find them | VailDaily.com

When people die in Colorado’s outdoors, sometimes friends are the ones to find them

Colorado search and rescue teams don’t condone civilian-led rescue missions, but in the last year, groups of skilled friends have found their fallen comrades in the backcountry

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Almost 30 friends of Chason Russell organized a complicated recovery in the middle of Meatgrinder rapid in the Crystal River. The expert paddlers, climbers and mountaineers recovered their friend's body on June 18, the day after the experienced kayaker and mountaineer disappeared in the Class V rapid.
Courtesy photo

A week after Vaughn Fetzer was reported missing on Blanca Peak, the fourth highest mountain in Colorado, friends found his body in an unstable area. Rescuers spent several days in freezing temperatures searching near vertical cliffs and scree fields but suspended the mission after a search team member was injured by falling rock in a steep couloir below the 14,344-foot summit.

The discovery of the 57-year-old Durango nurse marked the third time in less than a year that friends stepped in to assist search and rescue teams in finding a lost loved one. (Rescuers recovered Fetzer’s body the next day.)

When backcountry skiers Dr. Jeff Paffendorf and Albert Perry did not return from their ski trip to an area called Battleship near Ophir Pass on Dec. 19, friends rallied. They skied into the area in the dark, after a search helicopter had spotted a large avalanche with ski tracks heading into it. Around 11 p.m. the friends located the bodies of the two beloved Durango skiers from a large avalanche debris field. Rescuers the next day retrieved the mens’ bodies.

On June 17, expert kayaker and mountain guide Chason Russell separated from his kayak in the middle of the daunting Meatgrinder rapid on the Crystal River near Redstone. As his longtime paddling partner Stan Prichard attempted to haul his friend to shore, Russell disappeared into a churning hole.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

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