Snowshoer rescued near Colorado Mines Peak
On Thursday, March 10 David Hoffman, 57 of Brighton and Jeff Petersen, 56 of Geneva, Ill. snowshoed to the top of Colorado Mines peak from the Berthoud Pass parking lot. Hoffman got to the peak first.
“It was really windy with no shelter and I started to head down,” Hoffman said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
Petersen got to the top a half an hour after Hoffman.
“I descended too soon and too far to the north. I went into the trees and headed to the southwest. I ended up in deep sugar snow about 3:30 p.m.,” Petersen said on the phone while driving back to Illinois.
During his decent of Colorado Mines Peak he was in cell phone conversation and texting with Hoffman.
“I was really spent and I got to the point where I just stopped texting with Dave.”
Hoffman was back at the trailhead and began driving up and down the pass hoping he could see where Petersen was located.
Both were exhausted. And as the sun descended the mountains, around about 5:15, Hoffman called 911.
Grand County Search and Rescue was paged at 5:36 p.m. and staged incident command out of the main parking area at the top of Berthoud Pass. According to GCSAR reports, Petersen was off-track and too low in steep, thick timber in the High Cliff Trails area near the top of Berthoud Pass.
Team member Greg Foley using Petersen’s cell phone, according to the report, verified Petersen’s location. Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Bell had posted himself at a pull-off two switch-backs below the summit and could see the subject with spotting scope to verify his position.
A team of three rescuers entered the field after dark at 6:45 p.m.
Due to the very steep terrain, Petersen’s physical state and the difficulties of navigating from his position to the road in total darkness, real-time mapping was used to plot the best course, according to the report.
“They triangulated me on my cell phone,” said Petersen. “I had two devices, an iPhone and Android.”
The subject was reached in steep terrain approximately 1 hour later.
Petersen waited in the same spot for over two hours. His feet were cold but he was well-equipped for the hike.
“They found me with the spotlight,” said Petersen.
“They approached from the top of the mountain and told me to listen for shouting or a whistle. I heard the shouting. They gave me water and then we started the long trudge down.”
Petersen remembered fondly the fruit roll-ups from one of the team members.
“They were so wonderful and patient,” he said.
Hoffman waited from the trailhead.
“The moon was there for an hour but then it was pitch black,” said Hoffman.
“I knew he didn’t have light and watched the sun go behind the mountain.”
As Hoffman sat in his car he could see the headlamps and flashes of light from the Search and Rescue team.
The team had to make a steep descent in deep snow and thick timber; taking over two hours, to the valley below the road, and then a short but steep climb to the road.
All were out of the field and safe at the pull off at 10:02 p.m.
“This mission was an example of the technology that Grand County Search and Rescue is able to employ in support of the determined efforts of the members,” said Incident Commander, Paul Robertson.
“By the time I’d established command in the field, Greg Foley had provided real time topographical mapping and aerial photographs of the subject’s location. This provided us with the best routes into the subject, and then out to the recovery point. In total darkness, in difficult terrain, this was invaluable”.
Petersen and Hoffman are both experienced hikers and backpackers, hiking many 14ers in summer and winter.
“We were well-equipped, but we didn’t take a map, said Hoffman. “I’m not sure how Jeff lost his bearings.”
They snowshoed Mount Bierstadt on Monday and Loveland on Tuesday.
Petersen, who moved from Colorado to Illinois in 2003 was a member of the Colorado Mountain Club in the 90s. He had camped on the top of Berthoud in winter in the past. Needing a break from work in Illinois, he took a week vacation to Colorado.
“I got the fever [for hiking] when we were snowshoeing Loveland. A friend who knows Grand County recommended the Colorado Mines trail.”
“There are wonderful people at Search and Rescue,” Petersen said.
“I wasn’t familiar with Grand County Search and Rescue,” said Hoffman. “I was so impressed.” Hoffman studied GCSAR’s website once he was home. He discovered that the people who rescued his friend were an all-volunteer organization so he decided to donate.
“I gave a donation this morning,” he said Friday.
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