BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) — Two experienced climbers who nearly got to the top of one of Colorado’s highest mountains had to be hoisted to safety by a helicopter after being stranded in heavy snow near the summit.
The unidentified climbers, one from California and the other from Alabama, were lifted off 14,253-foot Quandary Peak by an Army National Guard Blackhawk one-by-one attached to a rescuer on Monday, Summit County Rescue Group spokesman Charles Pitman said. While they were experienced rock climbers and well equipped for the conditions, he said they became trapped in a snowfield on the mountain about 300 feet below the summit.
The mountain is one of over 50 in Colorado that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level and draw many climbers who try to summit as many as possible.
The volunteer rescue group was notified about the stranded hikers at 8 p.m. Sunday. The first wave of rescuers began hiking toward them within about two hours and reached the summit at about 1:30 a.m. Monday but decided to wait until dawn to reach the hikers. They hunkered down in snow trenches as the temperature with the wind chill dropped to about 6 degrees, Pitman said. They were only about 100 yards away from the climbers but a steep gorge separated them, said rescuer Mark Benson, who took video of the rescue.
At daylight, the rescuers decided it was safer to ask for help from the Army National Guard’s High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colorado. Since the snow would prevent a landing on the summit, a Blackhawk from the site stopped in Aspen on its way to Quandary Peak to pick up a volunteer from another rescue group, Mountain Rescue Aspen, trained to lower a hoist and lift people to the helicopter.
Both climbers were in good shape despite the ordeal, Pitman said.