On Monday June 27, AVSAR Leadership was contacted at 0235 by the State Patrol Dispatch about two hypothermic hikers camped near lake como in the Sangre de Cristo range. The subjects had hiked up Lake Como Rd on Sunday in the afternoon with the intention to camp at Lake Como overnight. The hikers never made it to Lake Como and set up camp approximately 1/4mi from the lake.
AVSAR sent in two Truck teams to drive Lake Como Rd in highly modified vehicles, with each team having a medical team member on board. Lake Como Rd was exceptionally dangerous this trip due to heavy rain, high chance for rockfall and extremely slippery rock. On the descent down, there was a river running down the entire road. The subjects were complaining of being so cold that they couldn’t move and the male subject was vomiting, severely dehydrated and had a headache. AVSAR team members brought hot water bottles and sugary drinks for the subjects to rehydrate/rewarm and bring them down to the Lake Como Rd Trailhead to be checked out by EMS.
All AVSAR team members and the subjects were back down to Incident Command at 0822.
These hikers were highly unprepared. They had no extra clothing and no way to stay dry in their tent, with no rain fly. These hikers said they did not understand why it was so cold and rainy in Colorado, because it has been “so hot in Texas” where they hike all the time.
They never checked any weather forecasts and did not have any extra food, water or layers for the intense hike in or the night to camp. This is an extreme example of how ignorance can kill people suddenly in these mountains. These two subjects spoke to AVSAR team members twice on their hike up, as we had team members training above Lake Como all weekend and were on their way out when they encountered the highly fatigued hikers.
The hikers denied any assistance to and from Lake Como by our truck teams.
There are a lot of lessons to learn from this specific mission:
• Know before you go- always check weather and if applicable Avalanche forecasts before beginning your hike. Know your desired route.
• $30 tents without rainflys are not adequate protection from the rain and wind
• ALWAYS carry the ten essentials. – https://americanhiking.org/resources/10essentials/