Rescuers Brave Deadly Conditions To Save Climber After Shocking 500-Foot Fall

by Taylor Cunningham
Kenneth L Johnson/Getty

Colorado search and rescue teams braved freezing conditions last Friday night and Saturday morning to save a climber who had fallen 500 feet from Mount Yale.

The incident happened while two people were attempting to decent the 14,200-foot mountain, according to a report by Chaffee County Search and Rescue North. A female hiker slipped off a ridge and plunged into a mountain bowl. She suffered multiple serious injuries on the way down and came to a stop face down on top of rocks.

Her partner immediately noticed that she wasn’t moving after the accident. And they activated an emergency GPS device around 4 pm. A team of 18 rescuers rushed to the scene knowing that they had to beat the clock with temperatures on the peak forecasted to drop to five degrees with a chill of negative 15. Winds were also set to reach up to 30 miles per hour.

Officials with search and rescue worried that the mission was too cold and dangerous for the team. The position of the fall gave them difficult and rugged terrain to traverse and the temperatures made hypothermia a threat. The weather also made it impossible for a helicopter to assist, so rescuers went in prepared to carry the victim more than four miles to safety.

The Colorado National Guard Responded to the Injured Climber the Following Morning

The crew used crampons and ice axes to lower into the mountain bowl, and they weren’t able to reach the climber until around 11 pm. Once they did, they performed a medical assessment and worked to warm her. Around 1 am, they were able to get an aerial assist, despite believing it was impossible.

After multiple attempts, the helicopter team was unable to land and lift the victim, however. Instead, it returned at 2 am with supplies to keep the rescuers and climber alive through the night. By that time, carrying her to safety was no longer an option. So they moved her to a tree line, built a fire, and camped through the night.

In the early daylight hours, the Colorado National Guard responded with a helicopter equipped with hoisting capabilities. By 8:30 am, she was finally on her way to a local hospital after guardsmen transferred her to a REACH Air Medical Helicopter.

Chaffee County Search and Rescue North shared that the climber had several broken bones, a head injury, hypothermia, and frostbite by the time she made it off the mountain. But there is no news about her current condition.