Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blaine Basin Revisited

We decided to hike to Blaine Basin today. We haven't hiked all the way up since I broke my ankle crossing a stream at the top three? years ago and had to hike all the way out on a broken ankle.

To get there you drive through miles of Ralph Lauren's Double RL ranch until you reach the trailhead at the base of Mt. Sneffels. Usually the parking lot was empty but today it was very full.

The day was very dramatic.

The vehicles in the parking lot were all search and rescue trucks. I thought they must just be doing a rehearsal drill, but they were there for a rescue. They said they'd gotten word that the guy was going to be okay but they really didn't seem to want to tell us much. I misunderstood what the mumbly guy told me and thought the rescue was on the Blue Lakes trail, one of two choices at the trailhead.

We went on our walk, marvelling at the beautiful flowers, like this one which was actually a crimson maroon color but the bright sunlight washed it out.

As the hike got longer and we got hungrier we were getting crabby about where we were headed. Then two young guys in great shape approached and said they were with Search and Rescue. They passed us. Like the White Rabbit, they were very late to join the group.

What we learned from them: Search and Rescue here is all volunteer. A guy fell 100 feet while ice climbing on Mt. Sneffels. His bud placed the emergency call. They were on a steep ice field and he had a broken leg and injured back.

We hiked on. It got steeper and the vertigo was trying to kick in.

We reached Blaine Basin. There were other people there. Before we spoke to anyone we plopped down on a rock ledge and ate our excellent turkey sandwiches and split the bag of chips. Molly was distracted by other dogs at Blaine Basin, so we had to put the leash on. I looked at the stream where I'd broken my ankle with some anger. The deja vu aspect of the hike was another thing to deal with...

(notice I'm the Sherpa on all these hikes.)

Once we'd eaten our lunches without sharing, we joined the others up there. There were three search and rescue folks listening to two different radios. They also told us they're volunteers. I told them my broken ankle story. Got to get respect where you can.

Another beautiful alpine flower.

What we learned: The ice climber hadn't bought the $5 search and rescue card, so even though they had cel phone reception, the local helicopters wouldn't come. They had to get a rescue helicopter in from Moab Utah which is a long way off. The pilot of the very long helicopter which we saw fly in over the mountain tops was scared! We heard it on the radio! He wouldn't land. He'd never flown in high mountains before. So weird to hear a pilot just sounding worried while the ground people next to us were telling him where to go.

Those circles are the rescuers and the injured.

It's above 12,000 feet. It was a hot day even at Blaine Basin, so the footing must have been wet ice on a steep slope.

The pilot was heading back to a safe spot in hopes the six folks on the ice with the wounded guy (gal?) could move down to a spot with more clearance. The S & R folks we'd been talking to were heading up to the ice to help move the injured down.

Wow, if we'd had cel reception I'd have gotten this treatment. I know that sounds so self absorbed but this was the site of a major incident in my life.

It was 3:30 and time for us to start down. On the way down we ran into more S & R people coming up. The update was the pilot was not going to land anywhere and had gone back to Moab. The injured was stabilized. The new people were bringing sacks of headlamps because they were going to hand carry the injured out and down on a stretcher, and figured it would be a "slog of about five hours." In the dark- geez- it was perilous in the day. Log bridges, loose rocky NARROW trails.

We passed quite a few more coming up to help on our way down, including a super buff couple carrying two pizzas! We thought they must be high tech stretcher parts but no they were pizzas, because the folks up top had been there since morning without food. We thought maybe it should have been four or six pizzas but anyway... A straggler was eating a piece of pepperoni pizza. It looked so good.

Maybe we'll learn the outcome, maybe not. All in all we estimate 20-30 volunteers were involved in this rescue. I thought some good horses could have helped out in many ways. Photos thanks to Jon!


Linda said...

Oh my God!!! I wondered where you had been. But dug up your tweet. I guess I need a tweetdeck or something.

My favorite parts are the description of lunch, and also "Once we'd eaten our lunches without sharing, we joined the others ..."

Love the flowers interspersed throughout...Gosh, that $5 card is a must-have.

Wouldn't the local helicopter have come if they had paid them what they must have paid the Moab copters? Do you think the local copters could have landed nearer by?

Will you be having pizza tonight?

Namowal said...

How could someone get hurt somewhere with a cute sounding name like Mt. Sneffels?
That almost seems vindictive that the local copters won't bail out someone who didn't buy the five dollar card.
Maybe it'd be better if people had the option to pay five bucks upfront or pay a higher price if they needed a rescue.
I'm glad you didn't break anything this time around. :)

Sally said...

The guy had to give an insurance number before the Moab guy would even fly out. Here's a link to the Ouray rescue group with their lovely motto "Anyone, anywhere, any time." But they don't own the helicopter.

This was their third rescue in two weeks. I would imagine those helicopters rarely get paid, and in tough economic times it all gets tougher.

prb said...

Wow, Sally, what an adventure. I have been staying home marveling at all the hikes you go on there. This narrative is such good reading. I totally agree with the part about having to get respect where you can. Very glad indeed that your ankle is well healed and that you made this trip safely. Thanks for this travelogue.

Sally said...

Thanks, Jane prb. Glad you're enjoying it. We gave our big old feet a break today.

stray said...

This danger is unnerving! Glad you at least are safe.