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Ouray Mountain Rescue Team wins national award

A Colorado Air National Guard helicopter lifts an injured hiker from Lavender couloir on Mount Sneffels at an elevation of 13,700 feet. (Courtesy Ouray Search and Rescue Team)
Dramatic rescue of an injured climber on Mount Sneffels in July won the most votes

The Ouray Mountain Rescue Team has taken first place in a national contest for rescue operations.

The team reported on its Facebook page that they won the most votes for the 2021 Rocky Talkie Search and Rescue award for its dramatic rescue of an injured climber on Mount Sneffels July 30.

The award is given in partnership with the American Alpine Club. The $25,000 in prize money was divided among the top four search and rescue teams that responded to incidents in “exceptional and inspirational ways.”

Nearly 5,000 voters weighed in on the 2021 rescue they found most inspiring.

“Thank you to everyone who voted for us,” Ouray Mountain Rescue Team stated in a Facebook post. “Oftentimes, search and rescue teams across the state will communicate with their neighbors to assess and create a plan of action. We couldn't have pulled off such a rescue feat without our friends at Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site and Mountain Rescue Aspen. Our joint collaborative efforts safely saved a person that day.”

Ouray Mountain Rescue received $10,000, the largest share of the prize money.

“It was by far the most involved rescue we had last year,” Tim Pasek, rescuer and spokesman for the team, told The Journal Friday.

He said the prize money will go toward training and equipment.

The other top finalists were Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Larimer County Search & Rescue, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Search and Rescue Team. They received $7,000, $5,000 and $3,000, respectively, in prize money.

Accounts of the finalists’ rescues will be published this summer in the American Alpine Club’s 2021 “Accidents in North American Climbing” book.

The Ouray Search and Rescue Team helps a hiker who fell while descending the summit of Mount Sneffels July 30. (Courtesy Ouray Search and Rescue Team)

“Each of these teams do incredible work for their communities, and we can't thank them enough for sharing their stories and being there for adventurers in need,” stated Rocky Talkie Search and Rescue in a Facebook post.

About noon July 30, the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team responded to a distress call on Mount Sneffels that came from a SPOT device.

Rescuers learned a man had fallen while descending the 14,158-foot summit. He landed on boulders between the summit and Lavender couloir.

May 19, 2022
Man rescued from Mount Sneffels after injury from fall
May 19, 2022
Injured climber rescued at Ouray Ice Park
May 19, 2022
Ouray search and rescue responds to two backcountry accidents

A storm complicated the rescue.

A “storm was in full force with active lightning in the immediate vicinity, torrential downpour and hail,” according to the Ouray team’s Facebook post about the incident.

A medical team waited for a break in the weather that evening. Team members hiked to the peak to access the patient in a narrow gully 500 feet below the summit. Initial care was provided, and the man was kept warm and dry.

Ouray Search and Rescue Team members endured rain and hail storms during a rescue July 30 on Mount Sneffels. (Courtesy Ouray Search and Rescue Team)

The hiker suffered a minor fracture and bruising from the fall and was semiconscious, according to an official with the Colorado Search and Rescue Association.

Because of the weather and time of day, the team decided to wait until Saturday morning to evacuate the hiker.

Another team hiked in after midnight Friday to deliver food, water, overnight gear for the man and oxygen.

About 7 a.m. July 31, a Colorado National Guard helicopter flew in with two Mountain Rescue Aspen technicians to retrieve the patient at 13,700 feet on the mountain and transfer him to the air ambulance at Jossi’s Ranch in Ouray. The patient was flown to the hospital in stable condition.

Rescue participants included Ouray Mountain Rescue Team, Colorado Search and Rescue Association, Colorado National Guard, Mountain Rescue Aspen and Ouray County Sheriff’s Office. Ouray Silver Mines helped with road repairs, and Jossi’s Ranch provided a landing zone. People nearby provided initial first aid to the patient.

jmimiaga@the-journal.com