Survivor Club

Rescue Map

Summit attempt on North Maroon Peak

Name Arthur Whitehead
Product Name ResQLink™ PLB
Date of Rescue 11/02/2014
Saved By Mountain Rescue Aspen
Beacon Purchased From REI
Lives Saved 3 people

On our way down from an (unsuccessful) summit attempt on North Maroon Peak, we lost the trail. We knew pretty well where we needed to go, which was across and down a series of cliff bands, but did not know the exact path to take, and to avoid getting stuck on top of cliffs, we decided to descend wherever we could while still traversing in the correct direction. After a while of slow, but relatively steady progress our options kept narrowing, and after a few to many sketchy and committing down-climbs, we found ourselves on a ledge from which we could not safely descend or traverse from. We realized that trying to return the way we came was just as dangerous, as we had already had a number of close calls on very exposed terrain, and trying to climb up that same terrain would be significantly harder in places. After much deliberation, we decided that without more gear (we had decided against a rope as the climb, if we had stayed on route, was mainly 3rd class with some 4th class sections) trying to get our selves out would be very risky. We all knew that the Maroon Bells claim a number of lives every year, and we did not want to add to that toll (and we later found out that only 2 weeks prior a climber had died very close to where we were stuck), so we activated my PLB at approximately 3:15pm. From where we were, we had a clear line of site to the trailhead, and within an hour we could already see search and rescue starting to assemble. After nightfall we were able to make some form of contact with search and rescue by flashing our headlamps at them, and they would respond by flashing lights back at us. After a few hours we heard a helicopter, and a blackhawk made numerous passes above us, but due to the inclement weather conditions (it had been snowing quite hard off and on all day), they decided it was too risky to try and airlift us off from our current position, and instead dropped off a rescue team a few miles away on a more mellow part of the mountain. The rescue team hiked in and repelled to our location, where they set up a belay and had us climb approximately 200 vertical feet up challenging 5th class terrain to a more mellow area from which we were all able to hike back out to the trailhead.

 

Here are a few articles reporting on the incident (though they don't give very much information):

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26854242/pitkin-sheriff-3-colorado-school-mines-students-rescued

http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/2014/11/03/mines-students-rescued-maroon-bells/18400861/

http://kdvr.com/2014/11/03/three-mines-students-rescued-from-maroon-bells-in-dangerous-nighttime-recovery/

We can not thank ACR enough! I bought my PLB expecting to never have to use it, but I still take it with me on all of my big adventures. Its great having such a compact device that gives such peace of mind, and when I finally had to use it, I was incredibly grateful to have it. It worked flawlessly when we needed it, and we can not thank you enough for making such a great product!