Search for overdue hiker near Culebra Peak – June 3, 2022

On Friday, June 3, AVSAR President Crystal Wilson was contacted by the State Patrol Dispatch in regards to a missing hiker near Culebra Peak in Costilla County. The missing hiker was last heard from when he sent a message to the Ranch Manager saying he was lost around 1530 hours. The ranch manager deployed his team, but was unable to locate this missing hiker. AVSAR quickly jumped into action and planned operations starting first thing in the morning on June 4. AVSAR had multiple teams on the ground, the Canon City Helitack Crew and the Multi Mission Aircraft (a fixed wing aircraft outfitted with high resolution cameras and a FLIR).

We also started Cell Phone Forensics for the missing hiker with the assistance of CSAR, through the AFRCC. Teams searched by air and by foot. The AVSAR Incident Management Team also interviewed multiple hikers who had hiked Culebra on the same day as our missing hiker. We were able to build an accurate timeline of the missing hikers moves by talking to fellow hikers. After a day of searching, the hiker was still not located. As the last incident command member was finishing for the day, the hiker had wandered onto a road on the Cielo Vista Ranch property and was given a ride to the ranch headquarters. The hiker was safe and uninjured.

Some key takeaways from this mission:
•The hiker had on black and blue clothing which makes it nearly impossible to spot them in the rocks and trees from the air. Please always wear bright clothing!
• All contact from the hiker ceased at 1530 hours, this may be because his phone died or was out of cell phone coverage, which is why it is always recommended to have a back up communication device such as a Garmin InReach, a SPOT device or a satellite phone.
• Always carry the ten essentials! You never know what could happen and you may be stuck overnight, unplanned.
Great work by all agencies who responded to this mission: Department of Fire Prevention Colorado Cañon City Helitack, Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office, and the Colorado Search and Rescue Association.