Two lost snowmobilers were guided to safety early Monday by Routt County Search and Rescue members.
The rescuers got the call about 1:30 a.m. Monday, incident commander Russ Sanford said. The two had left when the weather was nice and were "fairly thinly dressed" when they lost their way, Sanford said. They built a fire and had thin space blankets, he said.
Because the pair, a man and a woman in their 20s, probably would survive the night, Sanford considered not sending a team.
"I don't like to put our people in harm's way," Sanford said. "I always think about that first."
But because the lost snowmobilers had an idea of their location, he went ahead with a search. The man had called 911 on a cell phone and was able to communicate with Search and Rescue. The man told Sanford he thought he was near a radio tower and Summit Lake.
"I figured we could resolve this thing quickly and easily, and that's what we did," Sanford said.
The temperature was also a factor: Sanford noted that it was less than 10 degrees.
"It was cold enough that I thought if they were poorly dressed we ought to go," he said.
The biggest issue for the lost couple was their lack of warm clothing, he said. They weren't wearing heavy parkas.
Four Search and Rescue snowmobilers tracked down the man and woman, who were on the Continental Divide between Summit Lake and Fish Creek Reservoir, Sanford said. The two were having trouble getting their snowmobiles running. Rescuers got them going and guided the couple out, he said.
Sanford recommended that anyone heading into the backcountry take not only clothing, food, water and space blankets, but also a foldable handsaw with a 6- to 8-inch blade and a tin cup.
For a long-lasting fire, those stuck outdoors should cut wood that is at least the diameter of their arm, Sanford said. The cup is useful for melting snow into water.
"You can spend a pretty comfortable night with a good space blanket, a good fire and warm water," he said.
The pair were only a couple of hundred yards from the main trail, Sanford said, so they probably would have found their way out in daylight. But the elements still could have been harsh, he said.
"One of my rescuers pointed out that if the wind had kicked up, they would have been in real trouble," he said.
The man and the woman were back and safe by about 5 a.m., Sanford said. They could not be reached for comment.
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