2010 Search and Rescue calls near record in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

2010 Search and Rescue calls near record in Steamboat

Rescuers outpace past years with 73 calls for service

Zach Fridell

Routt County Search and Rescue Incident Commander Kristia Check-Hill stays busy Monday making sure the truck is ready for the next mission. Search and Rescue responded to three missions Sunday and has had 73 calls for service this year.

— With more than a month left on the 2010 calendar, Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers already have seen the second-highest number of calls for service since the organization started.

The volunteers have had 73 calls for service, and 40 of those have turned into missions.

Search and Rescue Incident Commander Kristia Check-Hill said the past several weeks have been particularly busy as snowmobilers, snowshoers and skiers head out into the backcountry to take advantage of the early snowfall.

Of the calls this year, 24 were for snowmobilers, 19 were for hunters, 13 were for skiers, 12 were for hikers, eight were for mountain bikers, five were for snowshoers, two were for motorcycle/ATV riders and two were for snowboarders. There also were two on horseback and one fisher — Wheat Ridge man Craig Horlacher, who spent five nights in northern Routt County after breaking his leg while fishing.

Horlacher is returning to Routt County this weekend to throw a thank you barbecue for the rescuers who helped pull him from the canyon.

Horlacher said by e-mail Monday that he still is recovering from his ordeal. He is now walking with a cane, and he recently began driving again. He's been back at work for the past month after spending 33 days in the hospital after being airlifted out of the canyon.

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Check-Hill said it's not clear why the calls for service spiked this year, but it could be partly because of the early heavy snow across the region.

"This last month and a half has just been rocking," Check-Hill said.

Fellow incident commander Dawn Alperti said it also could be the economy: People are seeking more inexpensive outdoor activities.

Most of the incidents have been injury-free, but there have been a few broken bones, as was the case with a snowmobiler last week. Alperti said several of the hunter calls were for people with medical conditions exacerbated by the high altitude.

The number of calls this year are ahead of the past two years: In 2009, there were 64 calls for service, with 47 paged out as missions. In 2008, there were 52 calls to service and 32 missions. Some calls are not paged to the general membership because the people walk out of the wilderness on their own or are guided out on the phone by dispatchers or Search and Rescue volunteers.

Alperti said the busiest year on record was 2000, with 82 calls for service. With a month to go this year, she said it's possible for 2010 to set the record.

Check-Hill said the most important piece of advice for people heading into the backcountry is to let someone know where you're going to be and when you plan to return. She said the increased use of cell phones helps, too — not only so people can call for assistance, but also because the location of the call can be traced back to a general area for searchers. Check-Hill also said people should keep with them an easy way to light a fire, and carry a flashlight to shine back at searchers to make them easier to find.

—To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

By the numbers

2010: 73 calls for service, 40 missions

2009: 64 calls for service, 47 missions

2008: 52 calls for service, 32 missions

Darrel Levingston’s survival pack

Plan to head out into the backcountry? Local experts urge you to be prepared. Routt County Search and Rescue veteran and spokesman Darrel Levingston suggests the following kit:

■ 1. Waterproof/windproof matches and lighter.

■ 2. Various fire starters: Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, hand sanitizer, liquid gel.

■ 3. Small folding saw.

■ 4. Map and compass, and (optionally) a GPS device.

■ 5. Basic first aid kit (including antiseptic wipes, 2-inch-by-2-inch sterile pads, medical tape, Benadryl tablets).

■ 6. Water bottle and water purification tablets or water filter system.

■ 7. Two reflective emergency blankets or reflective tarps.

■ 8. Energy bars, trail mix, power gels, cacao packets.

■ 9. Tin cup with insulated handle for warming snow or water.

■ 10. Warm hat and gloves, wool socks, fleece vest, rain coat and pants.

■ 11. Multi-tool (Leatherman type), duct tape (small amount), 15 to 20 feet of lightweight rope.

■ 12. Headlamp with extra batteries.

■ 13. Sunscreen.

■ 14. Two days’ supply of essential prescribed medications.

■ 15. Cell phone (keep this close to your body to keep the battery warm).

Also: Always tell someone where you are going and when you’ll return and/or leave an itinerary on the front seat of your car.

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