A hiker who was unprepared for conditions at over 13,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies was rescued when searchers followed footprints in freshly fallen snow to find them “alive but very hypothermic,” rescuers said.
“When inclement weather moved in the hiker found themself unprepared; out of water, with no food, wearing only a cotton hoodie and no way to warm themselves,” Chaffee County Search and Rescue North said in a news release.
“With darkness approaching and hypothermia setting in the individual decided, rather than take the same way down the best plan was to bail down an avalanche chute to try to get to a road.”
An avalanche chute is a natural path down a slope created by frequent avalanches.
About 25 search and rescue team members deployed to search for the hiker as a severe snowstorm blew in, according to the news release.
Around 12:42 a.m. Thursday, a team member spotted footprints in 6 to 8 inches of freshly fallen snow, and began to follow them, according to the news release.
“This team continued to follow the footprints until they came upon an unusual looking rock” at approximately 2 a.m., the release said. “Upon further investigation it was determined it was not a rock but the subject sitting upright in a fetal position covered in snow.”
The hiker was “alive but very hypothermic,” and rescuers spent three hours warming them up before starting the process of getting them down the gully, the search and rescue team said.
Initially, ropes were used to lower the hiker one section at a time until they said they thought they could walk and made their own way down the remaining stretch of the slope to an ambulance waiting to check them out, the rescue team said.
Chaffee County is in central Colorado on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains near the Continental Divide.
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