Found hunters mildly hypothermic, otherwise uninjured
Three Denver-area hunters were suffering from minor hypothermia but had no other injuries when they were rescued by helicopter this morning after spending four nights in severe winter conditions in the mountains of Garfield County, authorities say.
However, other hunters remain stranded in the same area due to the blizzard-like conditions that set in following the start of the second big-game hunting season Saturday.
A Colorado Army National Guard helicopter this morning spotted and rescued three hunters who had been missing since Saturday morning just southeast of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Mike Alsdorf, president of Garfield County Search & Rescue, Inc., said the three were spotted on a ridge at about 10,700 feet in elevation around 9:15 a.m. between Bugle and Blue lakes.
“They were cold, hungry, tired, as anyone would be being four nights out in sub-zero (wind-chill) temperatures,” Alsdorf said.
Authorities aren’t releasing the hunters’ names, but said they are all male, over 25, and relatives. The three were taken to an undisclosed medical facility to be checked out.
Adam Ford, chief victims specialist for the sheriff’s office, said the last four days were “nerve-wracking and frustrating” for the hunters’ relatives and they were relieved to hear of the rescue and appreciative of the efforts of rescuers.
Rescue crews from several counties participated in the search.
Alsdorf said the missing men carried only enough food and clothing for a day of hunting when they headed out Saturday. However, they did the right thing when they became lost by hunkering down, building a fire, and waiting for help, he said. He said he believes they found shelter in a timbered area.
They were able to contact two other members of their hunting party Sunday by radio, but then their batteries died. Search efforts by the other two Sunday were confounded by a foot of new snow, and they called for search and rescue help.
Search efforts Monday were set back by deep snow and blizzard conditions, but the friends of the missing hunters heard three gunshots before nightfall, a distress call indicating the hunters were still out there.
A ground search crew again heard the shots Tuesday night.
Alsdorf said winds reached 40 to 50 mph Monday, and snow depths were two to two-and-a-half feet in the trees, and deeper in some open areas.
Searchers rescued three stranded hunters in Garfield County Tuesday, and two others who were overdue back home had made their way out of the mountains on their own by this afternoon. However, rescue crews in the county are continuing to try to find and help multiple hunters whose whereabouts generally are known but who are stranded by snow.