Two teens are alive after two days missing on Mount of the Holy Cross
November 23, 2016
EAGLE COUNTY — Two Colorado Springs teenagers were cold and tired but alive after spending two nights lost on Mount of the Holy Cross.
"We have two live finds," said Dan Smith with Vail Mountain Rescue. "They were just very cold and a little bit worse for wear."
Tommy Hendricks, 18, and Matt Smith, 17, called family on Monday to say they had reached the 14,012-foot summit of Mount of the Holy Cross, and were on their way down.
They did not return and were reported missing Tuesday when they were overdue, said Jessie Mosher, public information officer with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office.
Hendricks' phone died and texts sent to Smith weren't returned, Hendricks' mother Peggy Hendricks told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
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Ground crews searched during Tuesday's storms, and three dozen searchers started again early Wednesday morning, joined by helicopters from three agencies: Colorado High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site crew, Flight for Life and Colorado Fire Prevention, Mosher said.
Hendricks and Smith were flown off the mountain and by 3:30 p.m. were initially checked out in an ambulance in Freedom Park in Edwards, where the helicopter took them.
They are both safe and in good health, Mosher said.
"It's a great Thanksgiving story," Smith said.
Hendricks and Smith were released from Vail Valley Medical Center at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday to their families.
How they were found
A crew searching on the ground discovered the pair's fresh tracks near the Harvey Lake area. A Forest Service plane circling high above the area followed those tracks electronically, passing the information along to a Black Hawk helicopter crew being flown by a Colorado National Guard's High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site unit.
That Black Hawk crew followed those directions toward Harvey Lake and spotted Hendricks and Smith. The crew couldn't find a safe landing spot, so the two had to be hoisted from the ground to the Black Hawk on a winch.
The two were rushed to the Vail Valley Medical Center where they're in stable condition, said Jeff Owens, public information officer with the Vail Valley Medical Center.
For the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site crew, this was their fourth rescue since Oct. 1. They had 29 rescues last year, said High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site Commander Lt. Col. Tony Somogyi.
Two lucky climbers
The pair left Colorado Springs Sunday afternoon for Mount of the Holy Cross and camped overnight before heading to the summit on Monday.
Both of them have hiking and camping experience and were reasonably prepared with sleeping bags and food, Mosher said.
"I think any time that we have cold weather and storms and hikers who we haven't been in contact with we definitely take every action we can to find them as soon as possible," Mosher said.
Hendricks and Smith are students at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs. Their Facebook pages list Hendricks as a senior and Smith as a junior. Both were said to be experienced climbers who have summited several of Colorado's 14ers.
On Hendricks' Facebook page, "Adventures with Tommy Hendricks," he says "the mountains are like a second home to me and always have been, and always will be." He also writes that he's trying to become a sponsored rock climber.
To summit Mount of the Holy Cross, climbers must complete 12 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 5,600 feet.
Thanks to rescue crews
The Eagle County Sheriff's Office and the Vail Mountain Rescue Group said they would like to thank the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Flight for Life, Alpine Mountain Rescue, Rocky Mountain Rescue, Summit County Mountain Rescue, Garfield County Mountain Rescue, Aspen Mountain Rescue, Salvation Army and Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control for their hard work and assistance in locating Hendricks and Smith safely.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.