Grand County Search and Rescue plucks radio operator off Mt. Flora
On Sunday, May 17, Grand County earch and Rescue helped 59-year-old Littleton resident, Brad Bylund, off of Mount Flora above Berthoud Pass.
Mr Bylund is a “Ham” — a common nickname for amateur radio enthusiast — who enjoys his hobby by summiting a peak and seeing who he can reach with his radio via the Colorado Connection Repeaters ham radio network. His intended destination was Mount Flora, on snowshoes, according to CGSAR.
The initial call came just before noon for a subject stranded in a whiteout, with GPS coordinates that put him barely into Clear Creek county at 12,600 feet southeast of the summit of Mt. Flora. While GCSAR was responding, the Clear Creek sheriff also responded and paged Alpine Rescue Team, headquartered in Evergreen.
One GCSAR member was already skiing the pass. He met up with another member and they proceeded into the search area on skis as Team 1. In addition, six other members either responded or were on standby in case they were needed.
As GCSAR was launching Team 2; Alpine Rescue showed up with 21 rescuers and placed one ham radio operator on Floyd Hill, who was able to talk to the subject. It was quickly agreed to just send in their four best skiers to back up our Team 1, and Alpine Rescue took operational command and managed the remainder of the mission.
The subject was located three-quarters of a mile west of where his cell phone indicated he was. He had decided to turn around due to weather before he reached the top of Mt. Flora and was in the vicinity of Robert Peak when he strayed onto a cornice, and it collapsed onto a ledge below. He was able to alert another ham operator who called 9-1-1. Teams 1 & 2 came together and used a rope belay to safely extract the subject from the precarious position he had been in. Even after three hours of being unable to move from his location he was in good condition and good spirits.
Team 3, which consisted of 13 Alpine rescuers, went up to the top of Colorado School of Mines Peak to rendezvous with the subject and bring him safety back to the Berthoud parking lot. Teams 1 & 2 then made a few well deserved turns on the way to the parking lot.
“Mr. Bylund was quite lucky the ledge below the cornice stopped him from tumbling to a worse fate,” said Mike Leiser, field director of Grand County Search and Rescue. “He then was able to use the Colorado Connection to contact a fellow ham radio operator who notified authorities of Mr. Byland’s precarious location.”
The total mission took 5 hours and 20 minutes.
“We very likely saved the subject’s life given his precarious location and position in unstable snow.” wrote John Sanderson, GCSAR president.
Grand County Search and Rescue is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization providing four-season emergency backcountry service at no charge.
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November is a hit-or-miss snow month, and while this year’s weather wasn’t the best for ski season in Summit County, it also wasn’t the worst.