A Colorado hiker wearing only a cotton hoodie was rescued last week after a severe snowstorm stranded them near a mountain summit, rescuers said Saturday.
The hiker had “bushwacked to summit” a 13,000-foot ridge near Mount Princeton on Wednesday, Chaffee County Search and Rescue North said. When the storm moved in, however, the hiker found themselves “unprepared,” lacking proper gear, food and having run out of water.
“With darkness approaching and hypothermia setting in the individual decided, rather than take the same way down the best plan was to bail down an avalanche chute to try to get to a road,” the agency said.
The hiker did have a phone, though rescuers said they were unable to pull GPS coordinates. The hiker could only tell rescuers that they were in an avalanche chute east of Cottonwood Lake.
Rescuers advised the stranded hiker to keep moving down the mountain.
A team of 25 search and rescuers trekked into the snowstorm to locate the hiker, searching several avalanche chutes, which were described as steep and slippery with masses of fallen trees and brush.
Shortly before 1 a.m., the crew descended into a gully from the ridge, marching through as much as 8 inches of snow, and found what appeared to be footprints.
The team followed the footprints until they found “an unusual looking rock” around 2 a.m., the agency said.
“Upon further investigation it was determined it was not a rock but the subject sitting upright in a fetal position covered in snow,” rescuers said.
The hiker was determined to be alive but suffering from hypothermia. Over the next three hours, rescuers worked to warm up the hiker before setting off on down the steep gully.
Ropes were used to lower the hiker down one section of the gully at a time until about 6:15 a.m., when the hiker told rescuers that they could walk. The hiker then walked with crews and reached an ambulance by 7 a.m., the agency said.
No update on the hiker’s condition was immediately available.
Rescue officials urged potential hikers to always be prepared with the essentials and to look up the weather before setting off in the outdoors.
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