In busy summer season, Monarch Lake area sees most calls for search and rescue, officials say |

In busy summer season, Monarch Lake area sees most calls for search and rescue, officials say

Members of Grand County Search and Rescue look up at Lone Eagle Peak during a recent operation near the Continental Divide.
Courtesy photo

A busy summer for Search and Rescue

Grand County Search and Rescue has completed 10 missions since early June:

• A hiker with appendicitis symptoms west of Monarch Lake was brought out via a wheeled litter to EMS ambulance.

• A seriously injured biker on Flume Trail was brought out via a wheeled litter to EMS ambulance.

• Injured climber who fell on Lone Eagle Peak. Flight for Life helicopters were used to insert GCSAR members into the backcountry for rescue and conduct aerial searches for the subjects. Colorado Air National Guard was called in order to retrieve the injured party from a ledge with a hoist operation using a Black Hawk helicopter. The subject was then taken to Granby Airport and transferred to Flight for Life for transport to a Denver hospital.

• Supporting Grand County EMS with a bike rider participating in the Singletrack bike race who suffered a head injury near Elk Meadow Trail. The subject was transported via Flight for Life.

• Supporting Rocky Mountain National Park personnel with a backpacker who had a severe health emergency and was unconscious. The backpacker was brought out via litter with horses and mules and transported via Flight for Life.

• Missing inebriated camper at Corona Lake who was found at another camp site.

• Lost hikers in Hell Canyon Loop without food, map or GPS were guided out via text as GCSAR used Terrain Mapping software to guide the hikers to a main trail.

• Lost hikers near King Mountain Ranch were guided out via cell as GCSAR used Terrain Mapping software to guide the hikers to a main trail.

• Supporting Jackson County Sheriff with lost hikers in the North Supply Area. GCSAR used Terrain Mapping software to determine the location of the hikers for the Sheriff.

• GSCAR also provided fire evacuation support for the Grand County Sheriff during the Grand Lake Fire.

This summer has proven to be a busy one for Grand County Search and Rescue, with most of the calls originating from the Monarch Lake area, according to officials.

Less than two-thirds through Middle Park’s high summer tourism season and search and rescue members have already conducted nearly a dozen operations in the county, rescuing lost hikers and injured climbers from dangerous situations. The all-volunteer organization provides backcountry and off-road rescue services for all 1,860 square miles of Grand County, 60 percent of which is considered backcountry.

Hikers create the highest number of calls each year for search and rescue in Grand County followed by hunters, typically trekking through Middle Park’s mountains during the fall big game seasons. According to Foley, the Monarch Lake area sees the highest volume of calls for Grand County due in large part to the extensive and remote trail network that can be accessed from the lake.

So far this summer, search and rescue has handled three calls that used the Monarch Lake area as their staging location for forays into the backcountry including a hiker with appendicitis and a dangerous high altitude rescue of a climber who was injured after falling on Lone Eagle Peak. That mission required assistance from the Colorado Air National Guard that flew a Black Hawk helicopter to the area to hoist the injured climber to safety from the sky.

One of the other missions Grand County Search and Rescue handled in the Monarch Lake area is representative of a new trend in search and rescue operations Foley said he has seen in recent years.

In that operation officials from Grand County Search and Rescue were able to make contact with a group of lost hikers via text messaging on cellphones rather than sending a team into the area at night for a potentially dangerous location mission. One member of the Search and Rescue team remained in contact with the lost hikers, instructed them to shelter in place for the time being and later provided the hikers with maps and instructions on how to get out of the area, all via text messages.

Along with the independent missions the group sometimes conducts they also provide support and backcountry transportation at time to EMS personnel and other first responders. Through late July Search and Rescue had completed around a dozen missions since early June including several high-risk operations in alpine areas.

Greg Foley, field director for Grand County Search and Rescue, has spent over 30 years volunteering with the organization. He said summer 2018 is keeping pace with past years in terms of calls for response. Foley said rescue calls to the organization tend to come in spurts that coincide with specific times of year and weather conditions. Annually, the rescue team responds to somewhere between 40 to 50 calls on average.

Grand County Search and Rescue recommends anyone heading into the backcountry carry a few essential items, regardless of the anticipated length of your journey including: a map of the area and compass, fully charged cellphone, a flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries, extra clothing, sunglasses, extra food and water, a fire starting kit, a pocketknife, a first aid kit and an emergency shelter.

The 40-member team is always on the lookout for dedicated volunteers to join the team. If you are interested in joining Grand County Search and Rescue you can reach out to the group for more information via their website,, or by contacting them on Facebook.

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