Fallen Hiker Gets Help from Stranger on Summit
Posted on August 2, 2022 by John
It was the Fourth of July 2021 and my hiking partner and I had just reached the summit of Huron Peak, one of 58 Colorado 14ers, which is considered a Class 2 ascent of approximately 3,500 feet of elevation gain over 6.5 miles. The summit was moderately packed with much celebration on a very clear and warm morning. We had descended about two miles on steep rocky switchbacks to be about 200 feet above a flat tundra lake area.
Below us on the trail we saw a small group huddled around an elderly man who was face up on the ground a few feet off trail. When we reached the group, we asked how we could help. Another hiking couple in front of us had seen the man slip on the loose scree as he descended and it was suspected that he hit his head. The man appeared to be half-conscious and could not provide his name, address, etc.
He had one hiking buddy with him, who was also elderly (probably mid-60s), and referred to him as “John.” He said that John “went down quick” after slipping and that he should’ve been more careful. The female in the couple who was already with John was fortunately a paramedic and was attempting to have him drink water and eat a snack. They were trying to figure out next steps and if/how John would get off of the mountain. Carrying him was out of the question because while he was thin, he was over 6 feet tall and the trail was still steep.
We all determined that John could not stand up safely nor was he responding to much. As a potential solution, I offered for them to use my ACR PLB to call for help seeing as John was not responding to the paramedic and she could not determined what his condition was, just that it was not looking any better as time was passing. Together we activated the PLB and determined that my partner and I should continue descending and the paramedic, her partner, and John’s friend would stay with him until help arrived. Myself and the paramedic’s partner exchanged numbers and addresses for them to return the PLB to me.
As we hiked down the rest of the trail, about an hour later, we heard and then saw a helicopter circling Huron Peak, seemingly attempting to find a place to land. After circling two or three times, we watched it disappear below the tree line, probably to the tundra lake area, to land. With Huron Peak being the most remote 14er as measured by the furthest distance from a paved road, it took my partner and I about an hour and half to pack up our camp and head out to receive cell service in Buena Vista, which is the the nearest mountain town in Chafee County.
I was met with multiple voicemails and calls from the US Coast Guard, the Chaffee County SAR, and, of course, my parents. I immediately called back both search parties, letting them know the situation, that I was not in danger. And then my parents, who were more than relieved to say the least, that I was okay. They were comforted by the fact that I was not injured and that the PLB actually worked to help someone in need! My dad also remarked that the US Coast Guard has called them multiple times with updates, and that the PLB has moved about 200 feet down, which made sense because that’s probably the elevation change from where John had fallen to where the flat zone was. I also received information from the Chaffee County SAR that John had indeed been life flighted to the nearest hospital, which was Colorado Springs, to receive treatment.
I never found out what his exact injury was and never heard from him after that. However, I did receive my PLB in the mail about two weeks later from the couple!
Words of wisdom
You should never be in too much of a hurry to help someone else on the trail.
Thank you note
I believe that the PLB was life-saving for John! It was amazing to see it in action, and my parents and I feel so much safer knowing that I have it with me to help myself or others when I’m out in the Colorado wilderness.
Chaffee County, CO, USA
Local Search and Rescue
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