Hikers rescued in Vail Valley doing well

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A Colorado Air National Guard Black Hawk helicopter found two missing hikers in Reeds Meadow, west of the Mount of the Holy Cross summit in Colorado's Vail Valley, around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The two men, Andy Westergard and Bill Hird, both in their 40s and from Michigan, went missing around 3:30 p.m. Monday when they were last seen at about 13,500 feet, hiking toward the summit of the mountain. The men never returned to their campsite and another hiker at the campsite reported them missing.

Westergard and Hird left their cell phones at the campsite so they could not call for help. The men were tired and a little dehydrated when rescuers found them, but they were not injured, said Shannon Cordingly, Eagle County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

The men had more gear with them than rescuers originally thought, Cordingly said. They likely went missing as they descended from the summit and lost sight of the ridgeline, she said.

As search and rescue teams looked for them, they were also moving around, which make the search more difficult, she said.

"We were kind of circling each other," Cordingly said.

Capt. Michael Odgers said the men used a mirror to attract attention.

Odgers said the Black Hawk crew noticed a signal mirror at about 8 a.m. while dropping off the second of two ground crews searching for the men who disappeared late Monday.

"While en route to hover over the suspected area where the mirror was seen, the helicopter crew identified two distressed hikers," said Odgers. "The crew was able to land safely and pick up the hikers a few minutes later."

Vail Mountain Rescue Group advises anyone who gets lost in the backcountry to stay put or retrace your route back toward the trailhead until you pick up the trail or find someone who knows the area. If you cannot retrace your route, stay put, conserve energy and water, make yourself visible and await rescue.

Eight different agencies helped with the search and rescue operations - The Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, the Colorado Air National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Center, Summit County Rescue Group, Douglas County Search and Rescue Team, Larimer County Search and Rescue, Teller County Search and Rescue and El Paso County Search and Rescue.

The search began around 8 a.m. Tuesday and ended at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The search resumed at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, when the Colorado Air National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Center helicopter located the men.

The Denver Post contributed to this story

Comments

JLM 5 years, 4 months ago

Hey, get a damn hand held GPS, you morons! Sorry, that's a bit harsh. Please get a hand held GPS, fellas!

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ElevenFootPole 5 years, 4 months ago

This story is a great example of presumably experienced hikers finding out how easy is it is to get in trouble. Chances are most back country enthusiasts have had moments of doubt or indecision that could have put them in similar circumstances. Simple communication steps can prevent a rescue mobilization that may be unnecessary or expedite one that is. Search and Rescue groups are comprised of volunteers who commit their time and resources to help people in time of need. Please support your local Search and Rescue organization and take steps to be prepared for the unexpected when enjoying the wilderness.

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