Crested Butte Search and Rescue: Itís not just for hunters
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 26 December 2012

25 volunteers from 20 to 70

Crested Butte is surrounded by millions of acres of federally owned land. Much of it is wilderness. Sometimes people get lost in it or have accidents out there. That’s where the Crested Butte Search and Rescue Team (CBSAR) comes in. While summer hiking, biking and moto season along with the fall hunting season are when the team is most busy, winter can be an active time as well.


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People around Crested Butte don’t stay only on the resort mountain when it comes to skiing. Many of them like to get out and hit the backcountry in a variety of manners. And occasionally, that can lead to trouble.
Nicholas Kempin is the president of the local and search and rescue. He says while winter isn’t very busy on a consistent basis, the team does get called out. “Yes, we often have winter calls,” he said. “For the most part those calls come from skiers and snowmobilers who might have injured themselves and the occasional lost and overdue party.”
Kempin said that primarily, the typical winter call comes from a backcountry skier or snowmobiler who has broken a leg or arm while pursuing his backcountry pleasure. The search and rescue team literally can come to the rescue and get the person out of the wilderness and into a place where medical attention is administered.
“Depending on where the person is hurt, a call can take anywhere from about 90 minutes (a mountain bike injury on the Lower Loop in the summer) to a very long day of, say, 12 to 24 hours (an avalanche disaster in the West Elks) if something happens far out in the backcountry,” Kempin said. “And remember, we are a team made up of about 25 volunteers. The men and women range in age from their early 20s to their 70s.”
The CBSAR also participates when needed with other similar search and rescue teams. “We sometimes respond for mutual aid for other teams and have participated in large search operations like the search for the missing park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park some years ago,” Kempin explained. “He was found deceased after three days of searching. That operation involved mountain rescue teams from all over the state.”
According to Kempin, the team tries to meet together and train two or three times a month. Individual members can take courses like an avalanche class or special medical training clinics on their own that CBSAR either pays for or helps subsidize.
But the CBSAR is not a wealthy organization. It receives some financial grant support from Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. However, the vast majority of its slim budget comes from individual donations.
“We are always replacing gear that is used or broken on missions and training,” Kempin said. “We just spent $1,100 on new tires for our Ford Excursion. We are currently saving to purchase a replacement for our 1994 Ford Pickup.
“We are 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that gets the majority of our funding from individuals,” Kempin continued. “We have no paid staff. We are a 100 percent volunteer organization and always appreciate donations.”
The CBSAR will be there if you or someone you know needs them. But for the most part they’d rather not. Kempin wants everyone who ventures into the backcountry to be prepared. It is wild and the ski patrol isn’t a short lift away to get you to help. “Basically, at a minimum, backcountry travelers should tell friends or family their plans, such as expected routes and the time they expect to be back. Having that information goes a long way in helping to make us the team safe and efficient if you really do need us,” Kempin summarized.