Steamboat man rescued near Dunckley Pass |
Brent Boyer

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Steamboat man rescued near Dunckley Pass

Charles Horton broke leg, then survived eight days in national forest

— A Steamboat Springs man was found alive near Dunckley Pass Monday morning after spending more than a week in the backcountry with little or no food and water and a suspected broken leg.

Search and rescue personnel from Routt and Rio Blanco counties located 55-year-old Charles Horton after a one-hour search on a snow-covered U.S. Forest Service road near Chapman Reservoir in rural northeast Rio Blanco County. Horton was conscious and coherent when found by rescuers but was reportedly suffering from dehydration and hypothermia.

“This is stuff books are written about,” said Anthony Mazzola, investigations sergeant with the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office. “The human spirit, the will to live — that’s what amazes me.”

Authorities said Horton set out for a one-day solo cross-country ski trip on April 17. Horton is believed to have broken his leg later that day after falling while skiing down a moderate slope on unimproved Forest Service Road 904.

An experienced outdoorsman knowledgeable in wilderness survival skills, Horton built at least two shelters and a fire during his eight nights alone, rescue personnel said. His wool and GORE-TEX clothing and a space blanket also were instrumental in Horton’s ability to survive the cold nights with little water and no food, Mazzola said.

“His skills and knowledge, his gear and his will to live are what kept him alive,” Mazzola said.

Using his elbows for support and pushing himself along on his buttocks, Horton traveled about one mile in the five days after suffering his leg injury. He was located about two miles from the command center established by rescue personnel early Monday morning.

Horton was transported via ambulance to Yampa Valley Medical Center. His condition wasn’t immediately known.