Longs Peak sees two rescue operations in one day

Sky-Hi News staff report
Grand County, CO Colorado
The Rocky Mountain National Park file photo shows Lamb's slide on Longs Peak, where a 68-year-old Boulder man injured his arm last Friday while preventing himself from slipplng down the snow chute.

The summer rescue season began in earnest on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday, July 22, as two separate incidents unfolded on the popular peak.

A 26-year-old Kansas man suffering from severe altitude sickness may owe his life to being treated and airlifted off the mountain. At about 7 a.m. July 22, park rangers received a cell phone call that the man was showing signs of severe high altitude sickness in the Boulder Field on Longs Peak. The Wichita, Kan., man had felt ill as he was summiting the peak the day before.

Members of a Park trail crew that was in the area reached the man at 7:30 a.m. Due to the severity of his symptoms, St. Anthony’s Flight for Life was requested. Flight for Life landed in the Boulder Field at 9:20 a.m.

About 15 minutes later, the man, whose name was not released, was flown to Medical Center of the Rockies.

The man had spent the night of Wednesday, July 20, in the Boulder Field prior to climbing the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak. He also spent an unplanned night in the Boulder Field on Thursday, July 21.

Judging by the severity of the man’s illness, including altered consciousness, care given by the Flight for Life crew and the park trail crew likely saved his life, according to Park officials.

Altitude sickness (also called acute mountain sickness) occurs because of insufficient oxygen absorption at high altitude. Symptoms include a dull to throbbing headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and feeling weak or dizzy. The best treatment for altitude sickness is to go to a lower elevation.

Man takes fall

Rangers received a cell phone call from a 68-year-old Boulder man shortly after noon Friday indicating the man had slid 30 feet near the top of Lamb’s Slide on Longs Peak. He eventually stopped his fall with an ice ax but injured his arm. He was then able to climb up to Broadway Ledge.

Two Park rangers reached the man at 4:09 p.m. and assessed his injuries. They began a tandem rappel to lower him down Lamb’s Slide to Mills Glacier.

With the assistance of additional rangers, the man was transported through challenging terrain to the Chasm Lake Shelter, where he spent Friday night.

According to other reports, the man, whose identity was not released, was evacuated by horseback on Saturday. In all, 10 park rangers assisted with the rescue operation.

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