Backpacker rescued

This photo, attributed to West Elk Mountain Rescue, appears to show a stranded backpacker being led out of rugged terrain astride a rescue horse. The rescued individual became ill while hiking in the Gunnison National Forest.

By Don Benjamin

Contributing Writer

On Oct 22, a team from West Elk Mountain Rescue (WEMR) located a backpacker who was stranded in the Gunnison National Forest. A dramatic series of photos posted by Max Horcasitas on the West Elk Mountain Rescue Facebook page were accompanied by the following information:

“0600 Thursday, Oct. 22, West Elk Mountain Rescue deployed a hasty team at the request of the Gunnison County Sheriff to Horse Ranch Park off Kebler Pass Road. The previous day the sheriff’s office received a report of a backpacker who fell ill, vomiting uncontrollably and could not proceed to hike themselves out to the trailhead. Wednesday night a helicopter was deployed, but failed to locate the backpacker.

“WEMR’S team located the backpacker at roughly 1045 and 6.4 miles from the trailhead near the Dyke Creek/Oh-be-Joyful/Silver Basin Trail junction. The 21-year-old male had made significant recovery from the previous day and the WEMR team assisted him out with the aid of pack mules. Successful mission on all parts of West Elk Mountain Rescue running the mission and grateful that the backpacker wasn’t found in worst shape than he was. Good job team!”

Here’s a link to the Facebook post: West Elk Mountain Rescue

The Horse Ranch Park trailhead is along County Road 12, about 4 ½ miles below Kebler Pass.

An Oct. 26 phone conversation with the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office revealed more details about the Oct. 22 rescue of an ailing backpacker. Undersheriff Scott Jackson indicated that a call came into Gunnison County dispatch late on the afternoon of Oct. 21 reporting an individual who was ill and stranded in the Raggeds Wilderness Area. Jackson was unable to ascertain the source of the call, but confirmed that a Classic Air Medical helicopter was dispatched from Glenwood Springs to search for the individual. After searching the area until dusk on Oct. 21, the air team reported it was unable to locate the man. Although a nighttime flying mission was considered, it was decided that a ground search would be more prudent. West Elk Mountain Rescue (WEMR) was contacted by the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Department and a ground team, including men and mounts, was deployed at daylight on Oct. 22 to search the Horse Park Ranch region. The WEMR team located the man at 10:45 a.m. that same morning and assisted him back to the trailhead.

The name of the rescued individual has not been released. WEMR does not charge for its rescue services, but there may be costs associated with the use of the helicopter.

WEMR is a volunteer organization which works in the West Elk and Raggeds Wilderness Areas; Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area; Gunnison National Forest; and other areas in or adjacent to Gunnison County. Volunteers reside in Gunnison County as well as adjacent counties. The non-profit group relies on donations and fundraising activities. Tax deductible contributions can be sent to West Elk Mountain Rescue, P.O. Box 1044, Paonia, CO 81428.

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