Two Rocky Mountain Visitors Suffer ‘Severe Injuries’ After Fall on Ptarmigan Fingers

by Amy Myers

Earlier this week, Rocky Mountain National Park officials received notice that a man had sustained injuries after taking a significant fall on a snow couloir in the Ptarmigan Fingers. Shortly after, though, they discovered that the man wasn’t the only victim of the tumble.

On Sunday, July 10, emergency crews deployed to the area above Odessa Lake. There, they helped not one, but two fall victims that had sustained “severe injuries.” Along with the 61-year-old male, there was also a 59-year-old female that fell from the couloir. Both victims were from Boulder, Colorado, though it is unclear just yet if they were related.

Initially, bystanders heard cries for help and came across the female victim. They quickly came to her aid and contacted park rangers via satellite phone. Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue then teamed up with air reconnaissance to locate the male victim who was in a trickier spot than the female.

“Because of the location and severity of injuries of the male, the park requested assistance from a Colorado National Guard helicopter from Buckley Air Force Base to extricate the man via a hoist operation, using a winch operated cable,” the park reported. “Rocky Mountain Rescue assisted with the helicopter hoist operations. This occurred at approximately 8 p.m. last night.”

Emergency Crews Transport Rocky Mountain Climbers to Hospital for Treatment

Once first responders lifted the male victim out of the Ptarmigan Fingers, they transported him to Upper Beaver Meadows where a Northern Colorado Med Evac air ambulance then took him to the Medical Center of the Rockies. It is unclear whether he is still receiving treatment.

Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members and overnight campers at Odessa Lake cared for the female victim overnight. The following morning at roughly 11 a.m., crews then flew her via Northern Colorado Med Evac air ambulance to the medical center.

The park stated that 45 people were a part of the two-day rescue effort.

Rocky Mountain Climber Says Conditions on Glacier Can Be Unpredictable

The Ptarmigan Glacier lies between Flattop and Notchtop Mountains. This location is one of the more popular spots for ice climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park. The “Fingers” refer to the couloirs or steep, narrow gullies of ice and snow. In the right conditions, these areas provide exhilarating, near-vertical climbing routes with incredible views of the mountain range. Add some warm weather to the mix, though, and it could be a recipe for disaster.

Here’s a view of one of the couloirs on the Ptarmigan Glacier:

“Like anywhere in the Park, depending upon the season and time of day, snow conditions can range anywhere from slush to ice to powder and everything in between,” one climber on the Mountain Project shared.