Mother’s Day hike leads to afternoon rescue mission on Berthoud
May 10, 2011
Drew Lancaster, 24, of Denver went for a blue sky afternoon hike, May 8, from the top of Berthoud Pass not knowing that he would require a toboggan rescue within a few hours.
Lancaster, who was wearing tennis shoes and traveling alone, got turned around and somehow ended up hiking down Seven Mile Trail towards Winter Park. After hiking for several hours, he was tired and thirsty, his feet were soaking wet from post-holing through the rotten snow. He could see the highway above him, up a steep slope, so he tried to climb up the slope but twisted his ankle. Unable to finish the climb, he returned to the valley floor.
Lancaster contacted 911 by cell phone. Then he lost voice contact, but was still able to communicate by text with Sgt. Neil McQuarie. When Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR) was paged at 4 p.m., they knew Lancaster was somewhere near Berthoud, that he could see the highway above him and that he was not able to walk out on his own.
After a series of text messages with the GCSAR mission leader, it was determined that he was on the Grand County side of the pass. By using his cell phone compass app, he was able to give a bearing from School of Mines Peak. His location was further pinpointed by sending Sgt. McQuarie down U.S. Highway 40 with his siren on. When the siren was loudest, Lancaster texted the mission leader. McQuarie pulled over and could see Lancaster about 500 feet below him in a meadow, down a steep scree and snow covered slope.
Seven GCSAR members descended the slope from the highway with a rescue litter and first aid supplies.
After reaching Lancaster, who was starting to get cold, the team supplied dry clothing and heat packs and treated the injured ankle. They packaged the patient in the litter and dragged him about a mile to the bottom of Seven Mile where Lancaster was treated and released by EMS.
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The team was out of the field by 8 p.m., just before dark.