Multiple agencies partner to rescue injured hiker near the Wyoming border

Multiple agencies worked together to rescue an injured hiker in North Routt on Saturday in a call that involved 24 different people. (Courtesy Routt County Search and Rescue)

Routt County Search and Rescue retrieved an injured hiker from one of the most remote spots in its coverage area Saturday in a mission that involved 24 people and several different agencies.

Around 12:45 p.m., volunteers were called to the trail that leads to King Solomon Falls because a 70-year-old hiker had fallen, potentially suffering a spinal injury. Kristia Check-Hill said they don’t often have rescues that far north — close to the Wyoming Border — but when they do, the rescues have a lot of moving parts.

“It is quite a ways up there; it takes us about an hour and a half to drive there,” Check-Hill said.

The call was in an area that did not have cellphone service, and the person who first came across the injured man had to drive 30 minutes away to get service in order to call 911, Check-Hill said.

The call was about 40 miles north from Steamboat Springs on Routt County Road 129. The area features a narrow trail above the creek that Check-Hill said is pretty sketchy the whole way in.

There is a pool in the creek up there that people often like to jump off the rocks into, she said, typically what prompts a call. But this time, the hiker was walking on the trail and tripped, causing him to fall and sustain the injury.

Park rangers from Steamboat Lake State Park were first on scene, followed by firefighters from the North Routt Fire Protection District. Search and Rescue was third to arrive, having to make the drive from Steamboat.

“A lot of people, and like I said, a lot of agencies working together to help this gentleman out of the field,” Check-Hill said, adding that in remote areas like this rescues often involve multiple responders.

When rescuers got on scene, they packaged the man in a vacuum splint to stabilize any potential spine injury and started to carry the man out. Because the ruggedness of the trail, volunteers used hand safety lines to ensure they stayed on the trail.

“The trail going in is really sketchy and has a lot of drop-offs, where people can fall off and get hurt. So when you have to carry someone out holding the litter, for the safety of everybody, everybody has got to be on the same page,” Check-Hill said.

They carried him to a part of the trail that Check-Hill said was “pretty much straight up.” To get up this section, rescuers used a basket and a 300-foot rope system with a mechanical advantage to get the man to the area where Classic Air had a medical helicopter waiting.

Over four hours after the initial page, the man was on his way to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. Check-Hill said she had not gotten an update on the man’s condition as of Sunday afternoon.

Check-Hill said this trail isn’t the most well-known, but it is still a popular spot. Hikers headed up that way should be prepared that, if something does happen, they may not be able to pull out their cellphone to call for help because service is so spotty. If they do call for help, hikers should know it could take Search and Rescue a while for them to get there.

“You have to really make some good decisions and pay attention,” Check-Hill said. “If something happens, just be patient; you will be rescued.”

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