Hiker rescued from Lead King Basin near Snowmass Peak
Written by Alissa Johnson   
Wednesday, 03 October 2012
WSCU mountain rescue team on the scene

Multiple rescue teams—including the Gunnison County Sheriff’s North District officers and the Western State Colorado University (WSCU) mountain rescue team—were called in to help the West Elk Search and Rescue team rescue a hiker from the Lead King Basin area near Snowmass Peak on Sunday.


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The rescue took most of the day, and the hiker was air-lifted to Aspen Valley Hospital with severe, life-threatening injuries sustained from a fall in fourth- and fifth-class terrain. According to Chris Mackie, team leader for the WSCU mountain rescue team, the request for mutual aid came in at about 7:30 in the morning.
“When we arrived in Marble the subject’s buddies, the reporting party, stated they were attempting or had climbed Snowmass Peak and got separated from their buddy,” Mackie said. They were able to determine his general location by shouting back and forth with a party camped on Jim Lake.
A climber in the area was the first person on the scene, and when the West Elk Search and Rescue team arrived, they notified Mackie and his team that the hiker had sustained severe, life-threatening injuries. A flight-for-life helicopter flew three members of the WSCU team and rescue gear to the hiker.
The helicopter could not land close enough to the subject to load him, so the two rescue teams loaded him into a litter and lowered him 500 feet to a bench in a scree field. DBS helicopters out of Rifle flew in a paramedic from Aspen Mountain Rescue, and according to Mackie, the pilot was able to leave the engine running and hover just above the ground while they loaded the hiker into the helicopter. And getting the hiker out fast was key.
“The pilot from DBS did a great job getting to a spot where we could load that guy and possibly saved his life as a result,” Mackie said. “I don’t know how much longer he would have made it.”
Mackie added his team, Crested Butte Search and Rescue and Aspen Mountain Rescue have responded to several similar falls in the same area—the hiker rescued yesterday was the only one “to come out of it alive.” He and other rescuers suspect that from the summit, drainages on the west slope of Snowmass look like they offer an easy shortcut.
“But you get down the couloir on the west-facing side and run into a cliff band. We assume that they either fall half-way down and go over the cliff or attempt to down-climb,” he said. He advised future hikers to stay out of the drainages on the western slope of Snowmass Peak.
A call to Aspen Valley Hospital to confirm the hiker’s condition was not returned.