Three stories of emergency rescue this past week, all in the higher elevations of the San Juan mountains. In the first story, a woman was avoiding a certain notorious glissade (downhill slippery slide made of snow) by walking around it. Unfortunately a boulder came loose from the mountain side above her and crashed into her leg, breaking it.
Bad news for her but somewhat good timing for the unconscious hiker that came hurtling down the glissade (I believe she called him “a human log”). This hiker had slipped, hit his head, and slid down the glissade. The woman with the broken leg had to wait for the helicopter to return after taking the unconscious dude to the hospital. (Both were later treated and released at the emergency room).
The other emergency rescue wasn’t actually a rescue. In an effort to avoid what they considered dangerous snow conditions, a couple found themselves outside of their comfort zone and called for help. But instead of being helicoptered out, the emergency rescue team helped the hikers reach a safe spot and left them with some advice about backpacking in higher elevation snow conditions.
Could be that all of these hikers have experience and knowledge for hiking in alpine snow. Accidents happen. John and I, on the other hand, are not experienced or educated about alpine mountaineering. So when faced with snow at higher elevations, we choose to hike lower elevation routes that involve lots of roadwalking.
For us, the past eight days included a mix of hiking on the Colorado Trail and self-designed routes along local roads. I don’t mind roadwalking so much, John is NOT a fan. Sometimes we have differing opinions about which type of route to take.
For example: the section of the Colorado Trail past Mount Princeton Hot Springs has two options. One option is to roadwalk a pretty flat 12 miles to Buena Vista. The other option is to follow the Colorado Trail for 30 miles with 6,000 feet elevation gain, then hike back down to the valley to avoid a snowy section. Two very different routes to reach pretty much the same place. Well, what to do?
We hiked the longer route, mostly because John wanted to and I felt like a flake preferring to roadwalk. Yes, the route was longer and more difficult. But it was also prettier, with cooler temps and better photo opportunities, more solitude, and came with a feeling of accomplishment when finished.
Some good news. The snow is almost all gone due to the high temperatures in Colorado during the last week. And since we are going off-trail for the next nine days to spend time with family, we will return to a snow-free Continental Divide Trail. We can safely return to the CDT red line, the main trail. The place of adventure, impressive photography, memorable moments, and exceptional stories.
Leave a Reply.