Updated August 12, 2010 at 11:10 p.m.
Steamboat Springs A 57-year-old man apparently stranded in the North Routt County wilderness for more than five days was found alive Thursday morning, partially submerged in a creek where he had been fishing.
Rescuers found Craig Horlacher, of Wheat Ridge, less than half a mile from his car in a canyon at the confluence of the Middle Fork of the Little Snake River and Tennessee Creek, near the Wyoming border. Horlacher last was seen Friday afternoon when he asked Colorado Division of Wildlife officers about potential fishing spots.
Routt County Search and Rescue incident commander Jim Linville said it’s not clear why Horlacher was unable to get back to his car. Horlacher was conscious and breathing but disoriented when searchers found him at about 9:20 a.m. Thursday. Linville said Horlacher likely was suffering from hypothermia after being in the water and outside for several days. Temperatures Wednesday night dipped to about 46 degrees, Search and Rescue spokesman Darrel Levingston said.
Horlacher first was flown to Yampa Valley Medical Center and later transferred to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver. He was listed in critical condition late Thursday afternoon.
“Probably the big question for us now is he is only half a mile from his car, what happened to put him in that spot?” Levingston said.
Horlacher could not give rescuers any coherent answers during the rescue, Linville said. He did not appear to suffer any broken bones or other obvious physical injuries.
Levingston said rescuers used a rope system to pull Horlacher 200 vertical feet up the rocky canyon wall to a place where a Flight for Life helicopter could land. A Search and Rescue helicopter also ferried people and supplies to the area, which is near King Solomon Falls.
People who know Horlacher began wondering about his whereabouts Monday morning when he had not returned home in time for work. A neighbor who looks after Horlacher’s house reported him missing.
Horlacher is a principal geologist with the Pincock, Allen and Holt mine consulting company in Lakewood. Co-worker Terry Laverty helped the neighbor contact the Routt County Sheriff’s Office. Laverty said Horlacher does not have any family in the area and is originally from New Jersey.
Horlacher is a fly-fisher but does not typically travel to Routt County, Laverty said.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies found Horlacher’s Subaru on Wednesday afternoon, and Search and Rescue volunteers were paged at about 6 p.m. Wednesday to begin the search. They continued searching until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Levingston said rescuers got within about 200 yards of where Horlacher eventually was found but that because it was dark, and he was unresponsive, they did not know he was there. Volunteers resumed searching Thursday morning and found Horlacher at about 9:20 a.m.
“From what we saw in the car, it looked like he took his fishing equipment and his waders. Everything else was in the car,” Levingston said. “He had gone grocery shopping; the stuff was still in the grocery bags. It looks like he went out for a little bit before he set up camp.”