Hiker spends cold night on Summit Co. 14er | VailDaily.com

Hiker spends cold night on Summit Co. 14er

Nicole Formosa
Vail, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” A 26-year-old Denver hiker is recovering after spending a night hunkered down on Quandary Peak where temperatures dipped 13 degrees below zero.

The man’s roommates called Summit Rescue Group at about 9 p.m. on Saturday after their friend did not return from a planned day hike on the 14,265-foot Quandary Peak south of Breckenridge.

A team of five rescuers on snow shoes deployed from the McCullough Gulch trailhead at midnight, but were stymied at treeline by 30-mile-per-hour winds and heavy snow, said Summit Rescue Group mission coordinator Joe Ben Slivka.

“They had to turn around because the weather was so bad they couldn’t even see each other,” Slivka said, adding that rescuers turned back at about 3 a.m.

At daylight on Sunday, five teams set out on the trail again and saw tracks just after 10 a.m. on the northeast face of Quandary below Monte Cristo Peak, Slivka said.

A Flight For Life crew flew over the area and spotted the lost hiker stuck between a cliff band and a rock band on the north couloir.

Reaching the man was difficult because of avalanche danger on the steep slope, Slivka said. A forecaster from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center was on-scene to help rescuers determine the avalanche risk.

The hiker was cognizant enough to climb down the couloir to the lead rescue climber, who helped him walk out to a waiting snowmobile, which carried him the rest of the way to the staging area.

An ambulance crew took him to Summit Medical Center.

He was released Sunday evening and his injuries are limited to some blanching on one finger from the cold, according to a posting on the 14ers.com forum by the man’s roommate, Andrew Rohr.

Rohr reported that once his roommate realized he was lost and wouldn’t get off the mountain Saturday night, he dug a snow cave next to a rock and set up a bivy sack.

“He actually stayed relatively warm between the bivy and a sleeping bag liner and all of his clothes. … He was cold enough that he did have to wake up every 15 minutes or so to warm his hands and feet, but he said it was survivable,” Rohr wrote.

Slivka said the hiker did everything right in terms of telling his roommates exactly where he was going, where he would park his car and when to expect him back. That way, his friends could quickly report him missing when he didn’t return on time and lead rescuers to the exact spot to start the search.

The one message Slivka has is to remind people that it’s imperative to be aware of the avalanche danger, even in the early season.

Rescuers triggered four small slides while attempting to reach the stranded hiker, and a sizable avalanche slid behind the lead rescue climber and the hiker just as they cleared the area.

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