The Garfield County Search and Rescue (SAR) were called out shortly after 8 Saturday night to rescue a male who was stranded on the steep slope above the RFTA bus facility in West Glenwood Springs. Upon arriving at the RFTA building, Search and Rescue called the stranded person and asked that he shine his phone toward Midland Avenue to determine his exact location.
The climber stated that he could not climb up or down and didn’t know how long he would be able to maintain his footing and hand holds. Darkness had already closed in. SAR members plotted his location on their mapping software and determined that going up the steep and unstable face in the dark would be unsafe. They chose to reach the climber by way of the a ridge above.
The SAR members maintained contact with the stranded climber via phone as they worked their way through thick brush, much of which had to be cut away to allow passage. They were in very difficult terrain traveling nearly four miles on foot in the dark. It was necessary to continue operations through the night, even though it placed the SAR members in greater danger due to the precarious situation the climber had put himself in.
The team made visual and voice contact with the stranded climber around 3 in the morning A SAR member rappelled down the climber, secured him in a helmet and harness, rigged him into a rope system and assisted him to the top of the cliff. It was 4:30 by the time everyone was safely on top. This grueling night rescue left the SAR members as well as the rescued climber at the ridge, exhausted from their efforts.
At daybreak, a helicopter made three flights to the ridge; shuttling the rescued climber and the SAR members back to safety. The climber was fortunate; rescuers were amazed and thankful for his ability to maintain his composure during the seven hour rescue operation.
This was the second technical rescue in Garfield County in eight days due to hikers starting up a slope and continuing as the terrain got steeper and steeper. In both cases the climbers were in loose dirt and rocks that are constantly sloughing off from the slope. Without having the proper equipment and training these “recreational” climbers put themselves and those who had to make the rescue in danger.
People are reminded that when they are practicing on a “climbing walls” they are in a controlled environment with safety gear and equipment appropriate for what they are doing. Mother Nature is not nearly as forgiving. People interested in steep face, technical climbing need to invest in the proper equipment and learn how to use it safely or join SAR where the training is free. Photo’s Courtesy of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Click to enlarge.