Grand County Search and Rescue rescues hiker after avalanche near Berthoud Pass
On Saturday, Dec. 3, Grand County Search and Rescue entered the field to save a stranded hiker who had triggered an avalanche near Colorado Mines Peak, north of Berthoud Pass. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated avalanche danger as considerable on Dec. 3 — a three on the center’s five-catergory rating. Since Thursday, Dec. 1, Grand County had experienced high winds and heavy snowfall, increasing avalanche risk.
A 19-year-old man from Indiana was hiking the Mount Flora trail and got off trail in deep snow. After triggering an avalanche, he was caught and carried at least 40 feet. He came to rest, unburied and uninjured. He was able to hike downhill towards the highway, but just before 4 p.m, the man realized he wasn’t going to be able to make it to the highway and called for help.
Grand County Search and Rescue answered the call. They fielded seven members from the top of Berthoud Pass, with a total of 13 members responding. The field teams were able to reach the man just after 6 p.m. He was able to walk out on his own with snowshoes provided by Search and Rescue. All crew members were out of the field by 7 p.m.
Search and rescue is still hoping to pinpoint the exact location of the accident site, but they believe it was on the left flank of the Mines 2 avalanche slide path. The drainages below Mines Peak are used as ski runs. The area is dangerous and prone to avalanches, with deaths and injuries having occurred in the area over the years.
A video from the hiker indicated that the avalanche slid to ground. According to the hiker, the snow he was on when the avalanche was triggered was hard and crusty and there was a one foot fracture line. Berthoud Pass is currently under an avalanche warning, according to the National Weather Service.
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In a statement, search and rescue officials warned that hikers and snowshoers are also at risk of avalanche, not just skiers and snowboarders. Those caught in avalanches can be at risk of being injured or killed. Grand County Search and Rescue officials encourage people exploring the backcountry to be prepared with emergency gear and extra clothing, which can save a life in the event of a backcountry emergency. They also emphasized that there is never a charge for Grand County Search and Rescue service, and said people who are outdoors should not hesitate to call for help.