At 11:30 on the morning of September 26, Summit County
Communications Center received a 911 call requesting assistance in
the rescue of a 34 year old man unable to extricate himself from a
couloir he was trying to ascend en route to Thorne Peak, north of
Red Mountain in the Gore Range, west of
Silverthorne. The reporting party advised that the
stranded man had been unable to move for the last two hours, and
was cold and getting weak. Mission coordinator Brian Binge
activated the Summit County Rescue Group and that Flight for Life
Colorado be put on standby status. The reporting party said he
could hear the stranded climber's friend calling for help.
Summit County Communications Center was able to determine the
reporting party's location using cellular triangulation.
Fearing the man would succumb to exhaustion and fall if help was
not flown to him, SCRG members met Flight for Life Colorado's
Lifeguard Two in a meadow in the Ruby Ranch community. Lifeguard
Two flew over the area with a SCRG member to confirm the
stranded climbers' location. Once their location was
confirmed the SCRG member was dropped off nearby to make contact
with the climbers and await additional rescue members. Three more
rescuers were flown to the stranded party.
Team leader Ben Butler climbed to the stranded man and was able
to secure him to the cliff face. Butler then built an anchor
system so that he could lower the cold, exhausted man down to
waiting rescuers and his friend.
By the time the man and rescuer Butler were reunited with the
other three rescuers and the second climber it was 4:30 in the
afternoon, too late to make the 6 mile hike out to Highway 9.
The Colorado Army National Guard High-Altitude ARNG Aviation
Training Site (HAATS) in Eagle County was alerted to the need for
help in the extrication. This military training facility,
tasked with training military helicopter pilots for high altitude
flying, dispatched a Blackhawk helicopter to evacuate the 2
climbers and their 4 rescuers. The six men were flown to a
meadow in the Ruby Ranch community. Since neither man
required medical attention they were driven home.
SCRG later learned that the two men left the Willowbrook
subdivision at 3:40 am to climb the Thorne northwest of Red
Mountain. They hiked the Gore trail to Salmon Lake and
climbed into the cirque above it with the intention of making the
ridge and traversing to Thorne peak. At some point,
they split up attempting to find a route to the ridge. It was
then that one of the two became trapped. Lacking the
appropriate climbing equipment for the terrain, the men were not
able to self rescue. Another hiker in the area was able to
get cell phone reception and contact the Summit County
The Summit County Rescue Group wishes to extend their
appreciation to the crews of Lifeguard and the Colorado Army
National Guard High-Altitude ARNG Aviation Training Site for their
assistance on this mission. Without their heroic efforts and
support this rescue might have had a very different ending.
SCRG also thanks the Willow Brook Metro District and the Ruby Ranch
community for supporting this mission.
Always be prepared for the unexpected. Don't venture into
terrain you are not confident you can navigate.