Crazy day on the Combo route of Bierstadt, Saw Tooth and Evans. Let me begin.
Perfect day with the view of the lake at Quenella Pass. There was hazy conditions from state fires and out of state fires.
Easy Summit at Bierstadt. Only 2 Climbers ahead of me at this point.
Saw Tooth was amazing.
Then I hit the freeway of people ascending from Evans Highway from the north at the parking lot at "Summit Lake?".
I asked a couple of climbers about the decent route off of Evans and Back to Quenella Pass. Come to find out that there are three trails and both climbers took the incorrect trails and ended up in marsh land. This is Ok though since it was Aug and not early spring (Much Wetter). This enforces the Need to know your route.
I complete Evans with many tourist who climbed the last 20 feet from their cars. Kinda anti climactic.
Then I descend Evans and I'm just about to the Saw Tooth exit point when I stop to encourage a Father/ Daughter Combo that they are all most there. As I take a breath the wind clams for just one moment.........Then I hear "HELP". I ask the father/daughter combo "Did you here that?" They confirm the HELP cry. I work in emergency services so I know the need for not over reacting so I try to confirm if this is a real emergency or not. I formulate a plan with the group of Climbers that have know gathered at my vantage point. I plan to descend to a rock ledge that does not commit me to anything in order to prevent myself from becoming a victim as well.
As I approach the ledge I again attempt to make verbal contact with someone near Abyss Lake. I am about 1,300 feet above them at this point. Screaming in between wind gust I try to confirm if this is a hoax or not, injured or not injured and number of victims. I finally get a replay and can determine that they are not technical climbers(this was important because I knew I had no gear to help a technical climber). I do not know where they are at. I do here yes to injured. I then hear overnight and hypothermic, dehydrated. I then take action.
With a plan already in place with my assistant rescuers (father daughter combo and bystanders with non functioning cell phones) I enact the plan. The Plan was this..................... If I determine that there is an actual emergency I will give ONE solid long tone with my rescue whistle. When they here that they are to proceed to the Summit of Evans for help. They are also to call MY FAMILY immediately to advise that my RETURN home will be delayed and not to come looking for me. If no emergency was found then it would be short bursts on the whistle.
I descended after much consideration down the 1,300' into the abyss lake area. I did not have visual contact until 400' above them. They were in Khaki and Black clothing with no outstanding colors for contrast. In fact no one could see them from Evans at all. I was happy to see that they were not on a face or stuck in scree. The call for help was delayed 40 minutes due to my concern that this might be kids playing around or a hoax. After confirmation it took 30 minutes to descend to them. I heard a woman and a mans voice the entire time and confirmed only two victims. I hear the occasional yells from the top but cannot confirm the voice or questions due to heavy winds.
I arrive and find 2 emotionally distraught victims huddled together. I will not disclose there medical conditions for their privacy but suffice to say hypothermic and AMS. This was due to the fact that they were out overnight and got wet from swamps and rain. I immediately began actions to assist. I rationed out food and water. I took off everything I could to assist to warm them up. I then did some basic vitals monitoring. I created a flag pole using my white tee shirt and my avalanche probe pole that came in my trekking poles. I then created a signal fire with punky materials but did not light it. Although very exposed it was next to impossible to see into the valley floor and I thought maybe air support would see the shirt and fire. The victims rotated turns into and out of our lean-to rock structure when it began snowing. If the sun was out we would move into it for warmth. This all took place between 1200 and 1400. If there was a possibility of not finding us tonight I began preparations for food rationing and securing the structure for warmth. The ridge above was at 14,000 and we were sitting about 12,500 with a very gradual slope below and no signs of fire wood or trees. Not knowing the area that well I knew we had to sit and wait for S&R.
A brave park service rep named Jerimiah descended to us about 1500 with a radio but not additional equip. It was at this point that he gave me his radio and I directly communicated medical related info to the IC at the top of the ridge. Jerimiah did a great job of continuing to ask for updates on a rescue plan so as to keep spirits up. He also gave up some of his food and water. When I realized we had a rescue in place I began to enforce food and water consumption to build energy.
If you have ever been to abyss lake then you know that it is just steep walls on three sides. I imagined heli was this couples best option. I was wrong.
Approx 1600 Alpine S and R arrived. Due to winds they confirmed no heli. It was walk or be carried out. The victims were distraught. However after S & R pulled out some pants for the victims who were wearing shorts and some down jackets things began to improve. After some goo shoots and some power bars we had walking as an option.
I now began to fear for how I was going to get out of this cathedral. Having walked a lot already I knew that ascending the 12,000 to 14,000 in front of me bymyself at this late hour on routes I did not know with the Saw tooth smack in the middle of my route........ lets just say I was very worried. Not to worry though, the S & R did not have a medical rep on sight and I was it. I had to stay with the victims until they would be handed over to other medical personnel. I explained to all parties that I was 5 - 6 miles in the opposite direction from were we were going and they stated they would figure something out.
S & R were awesome. They equiped me with a helmet and we proceed to walk the victims, rope assisted in some cases down to a couloir named the Bowling Alley. We then ascended up Evans.
Named for the rocks that fall down towards you while you climb it. With O2, motivations, and a kick but S & R team we made the 2 hour trip out to Mount Evans. This was the second time I had been on this mountain in the last 6 hours.
Suffice to say that our out of town victims were happy to see everyone and very appreciative. The cost for their rescue was nothing. The appreciation for S&R was priceless and the best payment.
As for what I gained....... I did not do this to be heroic, in fact I knew how easily I could have become a victim myself. I learned so much from this experience. I took away some great lessons that will help me to be more prepared to help myself but also to help others. Bottom line was that I heard screams for HELP. I did not respond to those screams for self gratification. When I heard that nice ladies sobbing when she saw me after 2 days stranded I knew that if nothing else I had done the right thing because moral was better. I just happened to have a couple of skills and tricks that assisted the evacuation of these people. S&R were very appreciative of my self-sacrifice and made arrangements for my transport (3 hrs road trip) back to my car. I must thank both of the S&R drivers that got me to Park county and the Park County Sheriffs office for my transport to Guenella Pass at 9:00 at night. I commend you all and if ever you are in need of help do not hesitate to call for the Alpine Search and Rescue team.
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