Colorado Rescue Turns Into ‘Wild Goose Chase’ After Injured Hiker Leaves the Area

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Becca in Colorado via Getty Images)

On Sunday (September 25), Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a hiking trail near Crater Lake in Colorado. According to the caller, a 31-year-old male hiker had injured or broken his ankle on the trail and was unable to walk on his own.

The Sheriff’s Office, of course, reacted right away. Just after 1 p.m., they sent an ambulance to the area. A foot team from Mountain Rescue Aspen and members of their own police force were close behind. In total, there were two paramedics, seven Mountain Rescue members, and several police officers searching for the injured hiker.

The extensive Colorado rescue team searched and searched, but had no luck in finding the hiker. They even interviewed other hikers in the area and still came up empty-handed. Two hours went by and finally, at around 3 p.m., the rescue crew received another call.

In this one, the caller explained that the injured hiker had actually returned to the Highlands Base bus area on his own. He neither needed nor wanted further assistance from the MRA or the paramedics.

Colorado Police Reminds Future Injured Hikers of the Proper Protocol

Following the unfortunate wild goose chase for the rather inconsiderate hiker, the Sheriff’s Office reminded other outdoorsmen of the proper protocol when it comes to contacting emergency services.

A call should absolutely be made in the event a hiker is injured on a trail. However, it’s always important to keep rescue crews in the loop, especially if you no longer need them.

“The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen would like to remind backcountry users that a distress call for help puts rescuers at risk in the field,” they said in a statement. “In the event that circumstances change and assistance is no longer needed, please notify authorities immediately.”

As Pitkin County police stated, there are many important reasons to notify emergency crews of a change in plan.

First of all, many rescue crews are made up of volunteers who kindly take time out of their day in the service of others. Those who aren’t volunteers are paramedics and police, whose services could be better used elsewhere if they’re not needed.

Then there’s the fact that rescuers are putting themselves in the exact danger to which the injured hiker fell victim. Paramedics, police, and volunteers are at just as high a risk of suffering heat exhaustion or a slip and fall accident as anyone else.

Those who embark on these rescue missions make a choice to do so. But putting others in danger unnecessarily is thoughtless and irresponsible.