Columbus Day Rescue on Mt. Elbert
They call it “highpointing” but Lake County Search and Rescue (SAR) might have had another name for it after their Columbus Day morning rescue mission. On Monday, October 8 Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue had his SAR team in place a little bit before 5 a.m. at the Mt. Elbert trailhead area. They were preparing to deploy to find a 56-year old male from Pennsylvania who got into some trouble during his Mt. Elbert summit, Colorado’s highest.
This chap from back east was more than halfway through his highpointing adventure, a sport which involves reaching the highest points of various geographic areas or points. His goal specifically included climbing to the highest point of each state. Mt Elbert was in his sights as number 37.
“He was way up Mt. Elbert Creek, on the side of a bank, stuck against a tree,” said McHargue, explaining where the team found this fellow from PA. It seems that the fella simply put the summit of Mt. Elbert into his GPS (Global Positioning System) and commenced with bush-whacking. No trails, No paths.
And while it’s hard to believe, he did actually summit on Sunday afternoon, October 7 at about 4 p.m. Unfortunately, the same tooly-tromping approach on the way down found the guy in trouble, sliding down the side of the mountain. Fortunately for him he landed on his wrist rather than his head. A quick assessment of his situation – freezing pre-dawn temperatures, lack of food and water (!), injured wrist – lead him to make the 911 call.
McHargue set out with John Holm and Shane Brady, positioning Dick Dougherty at the trailhead to act as command center liaison with the dispatch center. The rescue team made contact with the adventurer at 6:45 a.m., stabilized him and brought him down to safety via the nearby trail – a new feature for the adventurer from PA.
“He did not use the trail. I’ve never seen anyone do that. I don’t understand it,” said McHargue expressing his frustration with the increasing number of unprepared backcountry users.
Ultimately since the guy from PA didn’t need any medical attention, he simply drove off in his truck after some heartfelt gratitude towards his rescuers.
Any parting words for the adventurer?
“I told him to get a topographical map!” laughed McHargue.