Exhausted hikers rescued | SteamboatToday.com

Exhausted hikers rescued

A Routt County Search and Rescue crew guided two Colorado men out of rugged terrain near Walton Creek Canyon on Friday after they called for help on a handheld radio.

Henry Chambless, 54, of Lakewood, and Donovan Greene, 71, of Monument, were uninjured but exhausted after wandering for two days trying to find their way back to camp, incident commander Joe Stevens said. The men spent two nights at elevations higher than 9,000 feet but were able to build campfires for warmth.

“They were extremely tired and worn out,” Stevens said. “They had a GPS, but they left it on overnight, and the batteries ran down. All of the hills look the same from up there. Fortunately, we had a mild night. If they hadn’t been able to reach anyone, they could have been in trouble.”

The men had parked their car at the end of a dirt road, then backpacked in some distance before setting up camp in the area.

Stevens said the plight of the men first came to the attention of authorities Friday morning when they used a UHF radio to send pleas for help. Their transmissions were monitored by golf course personnel at Catamount Ranch & Club and by a surveyor working in the Catamount area. Both parties contacted authorities on behalf of the lost men.

Stevens said he reached the men on his radio, too. They told him they had a fire going, and he asked them to put more fuel on the fire to make smoke, and to use a piece of aluminum foil as a signal reflector.

“I was in Agate Creek Preserve (on a hillside facing Walton Creek Canyon) and I spotted them right away,” Stevens said.

The men were on a knob just to the south of the narrow canyon. Stevens said he was able to drive to his home and maintain a visual on the lost men, allowing him to coordinate the search from his residence.

A rescue helicopter flew over their position with the intent of evacuating the lost hikers. Although it spotted them, there was no suitable landing site close to their position, and the helicopter returned to base. A ground crew led by Jim Vail reached the men just after 1 p.m., Stevens said.

Chambless and Greene, who had avoided drinking creek water, probably out of fear of being exposed to a parasite such as giardia, were rehydrated. One of the men was given oxygen, Stevens said. They rode out of the area on four-wheelers.

“People need to let someone know where they are going” before heading into the backcountry, Stevens said. “A lot of missions we’ve been on lately involved people who didn’t tell anyone where they would be and when they would return. You can leave a note on your car.”

Chambless and Greene weren’t expected home until Monday, and relatives knew only that they were camping in the northwest part of the state, Stevens said.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com