Dave Shively: Jensen’s story
Steamboat Springs — I noticed an odd community comment posted on our Web site to the column I recently wrote about Charles Horton’s April 2005 survival in the Flat Tops. I didn’t find it strange that the anonymous message wanted to know where Holger Jensen’s tale ranked among the area’s survival episodes, but I was caught off guard by the statement that, “there is such a lack of perspective and true local knowledge with things like this.”
Obviously, this person must have been referring to Backpacker Magazine’s lack of perspective in listing Horton’s experience in their list of Top 10 hikes to “Survival Epics,” and not my own.
True local knowledge? That’s debatable. Although I don’t go around town ordering Arnold Palmers instead of Jaspers, I still had no clue who Holger Jensen was.
I decided to go to the source, getting ahold of Jen-sen through the Colorado Division of Wildlife after finding an article on survival he had freelanced for them years ago.
Jensen laughed when I asked him if he would include his “predicament” in a list of survival epics.
Scouting for elk in the Flat Tops near Surprise Lake in 1995, Jensen slid down a snow bank, breaking three bones in his ankle, turning it around 180 degrees. Packing equipment for one night, Jensen spent the next four set up in his tent near the lake, where he could drag himself to the water.
Then the international editor for the Rocky Mountain News, an all points bulletin was put out on Jensen’s truck. After locating it at the Stillwater Canyon trailhead, Routt County Search and Rescue found Jensen at the lake, whittling a crutch to hobble down on.
Not only was Jensen equipped for camping, he also was there at the end of July, rather than the end of winter, and spent half as many nights out as Horton.
“I never felt that my life was threatened,” Jensen said.
While Horton’s tale empowers because of its “touching the void” component of a seminal moment looking at the brink of death, Jensen’s story was interesting for the opposite reason. Jensen downplays his experience, based on a life of survival. Having covered 21 wars for the Associated Press and Newsweek, Jensen can list how he “was wounded in Vietnam, ambushed in Somalia, drove through a minefield in Rhodesia, was jailed and nearly executed in Argentina, held captive by Palestinian guerrillas, taken POW during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus,” etc:
Still, two metal plates and 15 screws in his ankle later, Jensen will concede that it was “one of life’s character-building things.”
This is where the two stories converge. Both men gained renewed appreciation for their personal communities of friends and loved ones in their lives, learning the hard way the risks of venturing alone without informing others of their plans.
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