Mountain: Rosalie Peak (13,575’)
Route: Started at the junction Deer Creek TH (~9100’) and climbed the E. Ridge via Tanglewood Creek.
Elevation Gain - ~4500’
Climb Time until the Fall (@ 12,000’) on Descent - 7 hours
From Fall until Evac – ~13 hours (total of ~20 hours TH to TH)
Crew – Alyson, Prakash, Kevin, J.B. (Alyson and Josh’s black lab retriever)
I'm hoping that some of this information will be useful to others in a Winter survival situation. This content has been reviewed and approved by Alyson and others. Please treat this with the appropriate respect as I am only sharing this in the hope that some of this info may help others stuck in similar situations
There was little to indicate that the day would head down the path that it eventually took. We coincidentally ran into Kevin at the TH. He had the same goal and decided to join our party. We started at 6:30AM greeted by blue skies and zero winds. We made quick work of the trail in the forest using a previously established snowshoe trail for most of the way. The trail stopped abruptly and I continued breaking trail up beyond tree line. We broke for a meal shortly after tree line and talked about everything from mountains to meditation, about J.B.’s human voice and how he liked his pepperoni crisp.
Alyson and Kevin follow my skin tracks as we approach timber line
The forecast had predicted that the snowstorm would arrive after 11AM shortly before we expected to summit.
Approaching Rosalie's summit (11AM)
It happened like clockwork… the clouds moved fast and were there with us on the summit of Rosalie Peak at 11:25AM… right on schedule.
Alyson and Kevin approaching the summit block
Alyson hugs J.B. on Rosalie's summit
Kevin and Prakash on Rosalie's summit
All three of us felt very strong and decided to head off for Epaulie. As we descended to the saddle Alyson felt for the first time a slight tenderness in the hip flexor she was rehabilitating, which impeded her downhill speed. She made a very smart decision at that point to turn around. While she insisted that Kevin and I continue, I felt like I should return with her. We decided to meet Kevin back down the trail somewhere and turned back.
Descent and Alyson’s Fall
Alyson descends off of Rosalie less than an hour before her fall
We returned to the snowshoe / ski cache at ~1PM. Here we ate and chatted for a while. Alyson decided to head down slowly from here with J.B. while I finished off my apple and rejoined her. 10 minutes later I headed down behind her.
I noticed that Alyson had taken a slightly different route on the descent than what we’d taken on our way up. I decided to follow her tracks and at 1:30PM came across the poor girl on the ground on her face, unable to move, crying and in terrible pain. Shaken, I whispered the question… “Heyyy…, what’s the matter?”… “Prakash, I’ve some really bad news… I fell and heard bones cracking… I think my pelvis and leg are broken… I can’t move… it hurts”. My heart sank when I heard the word pelvis amidst the howling westerly wind bringing a bad storm our way... I stood in shock for a couple seconds wondering how I could get her down 400 vertical feet to the trees… She was the first to mention calling for help… I was quickly jolted to action by her simple suggestion. I dove for her pack and fished out her cell phone. Hallelujah… she had signal… and a full battery.
I had 10% battery left and immediately turned my phone off to conserve it. Alyson called her husband Josh first… voicemail… She called her friend Shawn’s number next… in tears she described the situation. Shawn handled the call very calmly and admirably. He coached me through the process of finding GPS co-ordinates on Alyson’s GPS. I rattled numbers off to him, described the changing weather, described what emergency gear I had, how long I thought we could last and what our immediate plans were. He listened, agreed to our plan of action and agreed to alert the Park County Sheriff’s Dept. Minutes later we received a call from Sarah at the Park County Sheriff’s office. She asked us about the situation and asked us not to call any number but 911. She also told us that a flight for life helicopter (St. Anthony’s Hospital, Denver) was being dispatched. She mentioned that the chopper could only carry Alyson and not her partner… I would have to hike down by myself… “Well of course I will… just take her”.
Alyson lay on a slightly angled ice slope and was anchored to it through the weight of her pack and the traction of one hiking boot on some rock. We realized that she needed to be on a stable flat spot. Towards this end I decided to let her perform actions that were bearable for her, offering to support her in whatever way was necessary. She decided that the pain was bearable when her feet were together. I held her feet together as she slowly turned and maneuvered herself into a sitting position on the snow. Together we slid her down onto protruding rock. She was still sitting on some snow though…
Prakash: “ Alyson, will you let me put my ski skins (I did not want to put anything large like a pack under her because we were suspecting a pelvic fracture) under you? You’ll get cold real quick sitting directly on snow like this”. I knew I was asking her to endure significant pain to allow me to do this but she looked at me squarely…
Alyson: “O… o… okay”. Filled with admiration at her bravery, I quickly pulled the skins under her and was pained as she screamed in agony.
Alyson: “Will you stay with me…?”
Prakash: “Yeah, I’ll stay… we’ll try to watch for Kevin and send him down for help… he can take J.B. with him … I’ll stay until help comes.”
Anticipated Chopper Pickup
Soon after we received a call from the Sheriff’s office asking about Alyson’s symptoms, the weather and other questions. They asked if there was room for the FFL chopper to land. I looked around and spotted an acceptably flat spot 150 feet from us… “Yes”. All this while poor J.B. wanted to get close to mommy… he was stepping on her feet innocently, causing her pain. It was difficult to draw him away from her. I was frantically scanning the ridges and peaks above trying to locate Kevin so we could send J.B. down with him. At ~2:30PM we heard the FFL chopper… I took off my mountaineering shell and began waving it violently. Alyson was on the phone with the sheriff’s office trying to steer the pilot to us. It soon landed at the flat spot… wind speeds were picking up at this time. The pilot and co-pilot descended and approached us running… they were not dressed for the cold and shivered in the wind.
Pilot: “Get in the chopper… Quick… we’ve only 3 minutes before this weather comes in”.
Prakash: “We can’t move her… she needs to be stabilized. I think she may have a broken pelvis”. Alyson joined the protest and also pleaded for some morphine or something to ease the pain.
The pilot and co-pilot looked at each other, looked at the clouds, turned and left abruptly and the chopper took off rapidly. I guess I did not blame them for leaving… Dark storm clouds were 50 feet above us, being hurled at 50mph, looking like a cluster of bombers trying to pass each other and break formation. I stood and watched the chopper take off in abject dismay… I had had barely enough time to digest the fact that they were leaving her… I admit I was afraid to turn and look at Alyson’s face as the chopper took off… for two reasons… (1) I was plain chicken to witness her disappointment which I knew was far greater than mine and (2) I did not want her to see in my face that I lost hope for a quick second… it would have killed the overall mood I was hoping to create during this day… a positive mindset was the biggest weapon we had at this point since we could be in for a long wait.
I dug through my pack and found my emergency 800-fill down jacket… I pulled it out and wrapped it around Alyson’s feet to keep them warm. I pulled out one of the three pairs of hand warmers and shoved a pair in her mittens as the first snow hit the ground. I pulled my Everest expedition mitten shells over her mittens. I pulled out a prescription painkiller I kept for emergencies and shoved one in Alyson’s mouth and fed her some water to flush it down with (she had her hands planted on the ground beside herself to support her body and wasn’t able to hold the nalgene and drink by herself).
Prakash: “I hope this pill is better than nothing Alyson”… I wasn’t sure the prescription painkiller helped… “Do you want any tea? Ramen? Food? Water? You don’t have to drink my crappy Gatorade (she doesn’t like Gatorade)… I’ve real water, drink or eat something?”…
Alyson: “No, I’m good”.
Once she was settled I called Park County SAR again…
Prakash: “Hey Sarah, the chopper left without Alyson…?”
Sarah: “Yeah, sorry about that… they missed the weather window for the pickup… we’ll get ground teams out to you guys”…
Prakash: “Okay… how long?”
Sarah: “At least 4 hours”… (4 hours put us at 8 O Clock for them to be in contact with us… not too bad… We needed to dig ourselves in and begin working on staying fired up, motivated and positive.)
Alyson: “Ask them for morphine…”
Prakash: “Yo, send us some morphine?”
Sarah: “We can’t do that but I’m sure the rescue teams will be able to handle the situation… Oh, and also, don’t feed her anything or give her anything to drink since she needs to be ready for general anesthesia at the hospital…”
Prakash: “But she’ll get hypothermic faster without food or drink…”
Sarah: “Good point, ok… but please keep it to a minimum and only when necessary”. We hung up…
Alyson: “Prakash, I don’t think I can handle the pain if they try to move me without morphine”
Prakash: “These guys are a super professional outfit, I’m sure they’ll come prepared… if not morphine I’m sure they’ll bring something else that’s good… let’s not think about that and try to live in the moment?”.
Alyson: “But what if they try to move me and I can’t bear the pain?”
Prakash: “It will pain, I’m not saying no, but they are professionally trained and they’ll know how to stabilize your fracture… so the pain won’t be because of any additional worsening of the fracture but because of the inflammation around your wound”.
Alyson: “I’m starting to get pretty cold and I can’t feel my feet”
Prakash: “I don’t know about that… it’s pretty hot out here...” (We’d decided earlier to think warm thoughts). I started telling her about warm places… “I went to college in the middle of a desert and summer temperatures reached 51 degrees C… we could literally feel the water molecules leaving our bodies through the pores of our skin”.
Alyson: “51 degrees??? That’s hot”.
Prakash: “Heck yeah… it was a little cooler than this right here though… this is beyond hot!”
Just to be sure since she’d mentioned her feet getting cold I re-fluffed the down jacket around her feet and dusted off the snow that was accumulating on top of it… we didn’t want any accumulated snow melting and soaking through her clothes accelerating the onset of hypothermia. We took our warm thoughts topic into the realm of other really warm places… from Australia to Tahiti to Mexico to the Samoan islands… I described how we were sweating abnormally when we went running in India this past December. I taught her a new energizing, yogic deep breathing technique I learned recently. It seemed to work for me and I desperately hoped it would work for her too. She wanted to say the Lord’s Prayer and I said it with her… We sang songs she liked… a.k.a… she sang and I howled accompaniment that put J.B. to shame. He slunk away behind a bush, dug himself a comfy snow pit and hunkered down.
Prakash: “What’s your favorite movie?”
Alyson: “Dumb and Dumber”
Prakash: “Nice… how about Supertroopers…?”
Alyson: “You know, I’ve never seen that one…”
Prakash: “H-whaaaaat??? Well, that needs to be fixed right after your fracture. I am bringing my copy over to the hospital tomorrow”.
Alyson: “Sounds good… how about some morphine?”
Prakash: “Mor…?? Why am I not hearing any deep breathing?”
Alyson: “No, I’m breathing, look…” huff, puff, huff, puff…
Prakash: “You’re amazing… I would not be as brave as you are with a broken leg… I hope you know how incredibly strong you are being right now… Oh and for the breathing, try to imagine incoming waves on a hot beach as you inhale and outgoing waves as you exhale… transition smoothly between inhalation and exhalation”. She earnestly tried this for a little while and it seemed to help her. I continued dusting accumulating snow off her clothes.
Alyson: “By God I wish somebody would turn down this heat…!” (Call me crazy but the warm thoughts were helping us a lot… I think Alyson agreed at the time).
The weather started to worsen… snow fell wet and heavy, rime was coating Alyson’s hat, my face, and JB’s coat. I was frantically cleaning the rime and snow off of Alyson to keep them from melting and soaking through her clothes. She mentioned she had a waterproof pant shell in her pack… I pulled it out and spread it across her legs. I held her… she was cold but bravely said “I’m good”… she appeared to be tiring and nodding off… I asked her how she was doing every 5 minutes to keep her from doing so. I constantly pestered her to breathe deep, and relax… she felt like it had some effect on her… however she’d take 4 deep breaths like an admonished child and then resort to the regular stressed panting pattern again. It was impossible to not be touched… not to smile… not to admire her incredible bravery and will to fight and survive this surreal situation we were in. It is one thing to be in savage weather conditions when you are healthy… many of us have climbed in far worse weather… but I cannot see myself sitting so bravely on an exposed slope in weather like that with a broken leg or possibly hip.
Alyson: “Prakash, do you think you could snap the break back into place and take me down?”
Prakash: “I don’t want to try that when we’re suspecting a pelvic and maybe even spinal fracture… we should wait this out Alyson; the rescuers will be here…”
Alyson: “What if we call SAR and someone can guide you through the process over the phone?”
I decided to call them again just to be able to say we asked…
Prakash: “Hey, do you think it’s worth trying to re-set the break?”
SAR: “Oh no… please don’t… the rescuers should be there soon”
Prakash: “Alyson, we really shouldn’t be doing that”
Alyson: “Okay”… we hung up…
Alyson: “I think this is a message… I’ve always been so obsessed with training hard, staying fit, running ultra-marathons… I need to slow down… God knows that this is the only way I’ll slow down and try other things… and I should… I’ve always dreamt of being a motivational speaker and motivate high school kids… I’ve wanted to write a book on the subject…”
Prakash: “Your period of recovery is your best chance to get your book written… don’t start running ultras again in a hurry… oh and you need a nice new hobby too… I’ve heard knitting is nice?”
Alyson: “That’s a great idea… actually I do crochet…”
Another SAR call was placed…
Prakash: “Hey, I’m looking for an update on the Alyson rescue situation. What are the teams’ locations?”
SAR: “Can you hold on…? I’ll check with the teams”
Nightfall, Hope and Disappointment
It was now starting to get dark and we got colder. Wind howled out of the West diagonally across the SE slopes we were on, into our right ears. I placed myself between Alyson and the wind and held her with my left arm. I put my ski helmet on to stay warm. Rime was beginning to coat my glasses, right eyebrow and eye lashes…
10 minutes passed with us on hold… we knew that they needed to radio the various teams and chat first before giving us an update but that didn’t stop us from creating false theories that 911 put us on hold while they munched on pizza. We laughed at the thought… it cheered her up and that made me happy. We lost the connection.
In disgust over losing the connection I put the phone in my pocket and headed over to an elevated rim of rock near where we were sitting to look down into the valley… it was ~7PM… I saw lights… 500 feet below us… I was ecstatic… I relayed my observation to Alyson with a disclaimer that it would take them at least a couple hours to get to us from there… she was now hopeful but knew she had to wait longer… I called SAR again…
Prakash: “Hey, I saw lights for the first time… they’re directly below us in the trees… tell them that we see ‘em… I’m waving a strobe light… ask them to look for it okay? I also have my red headlamp turned on and I’m blowing a whistle and singing loudly. I’m also going to keep my avalanche beacon turned on to transmit… if they’ve beacons ask them to turn them to receive”. I made this last request because the visibility was ranging to be anywhere from 20 feet to a quarter mile between the storm waves.
SAR: “Sounds good… beacons on, red lamp, whistle, strobe… I’ll let ‘em know…”.
I set the strobe light on the rim of rock and settled back down next to Alyson and held her… she was getting colder… I spent the next hour periodically getting up to sing and whistle loudly for the rescuers, jump up and down and generate body heat before going back to sit with her. On my next trip to the rock rim I didn’t see any lights… It was time for another SAR call…
Prakash: “Hey, this is Prakash calling about the Alyson rescue situation… do y’all have an update…?”
SAR: “They said they’ll be there in an hour and that was an hour ago so it should be any minute now…”
Prakash: “But I don’t see any lights… are you sure the teams had the right co-ordinates relayed to them?”
SAR: “Yeah I think so…”
Prakash: “No, tell me whether flight for life validated our co-ordinates to be correct…”
Prakash: “Ok… (I was very skeptical here)… sounds good… thanks man”.
Puzzled I went back to sit next to Alyson… “How’s my new best friend doing…?”… She was shivering… she had now withdrawn her hands into the body of her jacket and was trying the hands-in-armpits technique. She said it didn’t work too well… I fished my hands out of my gloves and helped her put her mittens back on again… Adrenaline had somewhat kept my frostnip in control despite the fact that I only had a set of torn ski gloves and no hand warmers… I didn’t understand how adrenaline could work for so long in such a sustained manner… I chalked it up to divine intervention and didn’t think much more about it. I took up my usual spot next to Alyson. One more hour passed… time for another SAR call… this time though I had to dial with the tip of my nose since I had been careless and my fingers had lost sensation in the past hour… I would work on fixing that after this next call.
Prakash: “Hey, this is Prakash calling about the Alyson rescue situation… do y’all have an update…?”
SAR: “H-what? We started a new shift… I’m the new person”
Prakash: “Oh, okay… sorry… we’re up here on Rosalie peak trying to get rescued and we’re looking for an update on where the teams are…”
SAR: “You should only call us when you need to… the teams are coming” (Ok, I probably deserved this one for the repeated calls).
The End is in Sight
Shortly afterwards I saw 3 lights seemingly headed for a low point on the Pegmatite – Rosalie saddle… I jumped up and ran to the strobe, picked it up and swung it above my head singing “This little light of mine… I’m gonna let it shine” as loudly as I could… I think the song cheered Alyson up… plus it would attract the rescuers… I also blew piercing blasts of my whistle with the wind… (Someone down at the TH later said we did a great job of attracting attention, so it apparently worked… two members of the alpine rescue team also confirmed later that they saw my strobe and heard the whistles from a quarter mile away). We heard someone shout up at us from far away and I continued singing and waving the strobe… I was sufficiently warmed up by the frenzy and quickly ran back to Alyson to transfer some of the heat…
The 3 lights appeared to turn and head in our direction… to be safe I continued my ritual of heading out and waving them in every 5 minutes… if they went off track after being that close I would have been furious with myself. I was periodically returning to Alyson to make small talk and get her spirits up. Three rescuers from Alpine Rescue got to us first… at (I thought) 8:30PM…. I was told by Shawn afterwards that first contact was made at 11:30PM. I am unsure who was correct. I had lost concept of time.
Prakash: “Woohoooooo!!!!! What’s up guys…? Breezy up here, no?”
Alpine Rescue: “You bet it is”.
Prakash: “Did y’all hear me singing verrry badly…?”
Alpine Rescue: “Yes, we did (laughs)”.
The wind was howling at a sustained 40-50 mph with horizontal snowflakes. Rescuer 1 came over to Alyson and chatted in a cheerful tone… she had to shout to be heard over the wind. She was an ultra-marathoner too… The two of them hit it off instantly… an instant ultra-athlete connection. I believe some running plans were made on the spot. I was happy that Alyson’s mind was off the pain. Since she was happily occupied talking with Rescuer 1 I was allowed the time to pack my gear and prepare for departure.
Rescuer 1: “Yeah, I did the Leadville 100 last year… it was fun…”
Alyson: “What? I love you…! What was your time?”
Rescuer 1: “28 hours… I’m trying to get under 25 next year so they’ll give me a nice big buckle I can wear with my tiny black dress”. I was thrilled that these guys were in such good humor and were continuing to maintain the positive mood Alyson and I had created.
Alyson: “I want to sign up for that next year!”
Prakash: “I thought you were going to try knitting for the next couple years?”
Rescuer 1: “(Laughing) actually she should take up crocheting… a friend of mine found knitting to be a little dangerous with all those sharp needles”
Descending from Hell
Rescuer 2 fished out a tarp to wrap around Alyson. They also began preparing a litter to haul her down.
Alyson: “Somebody needs to take care of Prakash… he’s frost-bitten… he gave me all his clothes”. I was touched that she thought of my condition at a horrendous time like this… further testament to her strength.
Prakash: “Alyson… don’t worry about me… relax and breathe… I’m fine”. The rescuers slowly began lifting her into the litter amidst screams of pain…
Prakash: “Remember what I told you about the pain Alyson? Your fracture isn’t getting worse… this pain’s from the inflammation… you know they need to get you below timber line before further treatment right? Are you breathing“?
Alyson: “Yes”… huff puff, huff puff…
At this point my prescription glasses had iced over completely and were useless. I shoved them into my shell… within minutes my right eye was frozen open by the wind and rime. Rime now coated my eyelashes completely, and eyebrows and I could only see out my left eye. With Alyson strapped into the litter the slow descent began… I was surprised to find 2 feet of fresh snow loaded onto places… I found her snowshoes barely breaking the snow surface, grabbed them and my poles in one hand, scooped up my skis in the other hand and my pack on my back… I couldn’t get her snowshoes on my feet because my fingers had gone completely numb and I didn’t have the dexterity to work with the straps. I decided it was better to posthole down in my ski boots so as not to add burden to the rescuers. I sank up to 2-3 feet deep with every step. The rescuers were doing a phenomenal job of keeping the litter grounded on the snow in winds that were ~50 mph sustained. There were five of them holding it down. JB was so concerned for mommy that he bobbed and weaved around the litter whizzing between rescuers legs not heeding my calls to him until he knew we were safely in the trees. Alyson’s cries were heart rending… Rescuer 1 turned to me…
Rescuer 1: “Prakash, can you say something to console her?”
Prakash: “Alyson, remember what I told you about the pain…?”
Alyson: “It’s from the inflammation…?”
Prakash: “Are you breathing? Are you relaxed?”
Alyson: “Ye… Yes…”
Once again she took five deep breaths like an admonished child followed by calm… I smiled in admiration… no I would not be so brave if I were in her situation… I’m certain of it. The 500 feet to the shelter of trees appeared to take forever. At the trees more rescue teams waited. They now needed to transfer Alyson to a stiffer stretcher for better stability and quicker transport.
Rescuers: “1, 2, 3… lift… lower”… screams… There was slight miscommunication during the lift-transfer-lower routine and the sleeping bag of the stiffer stretcher ended up not below her… she had to be lifted again…
Alyson: “Didn’t we just do this…?!”
Rescuers: “Sorry, we’ve to do it again”… “Ok, one person call this time… 1, 2, 3… lift… lower…” Once again Alyson’s pain was limitless. We watched and suffered. A rescuer quietly patted me on the shoulder…
Rescuer: “Good job up there”… I mumbled a response back…
Prakash: “Nah, thanks for coming out tonight… she’s my friend but we’re strangers to you… you still came out into hell for us”.
Rescuer: “It’s our pleasure” he responded. “We live for this… by the way you’ve a huge dollop of ice hanging from your eyebrow… I don’t want to pull it because your eyebrow might come off with it”.
Prakash: “Nah, I kind of like it there…”
The Last Lap
The rescuers took turns carrying my skis through the trees for me. Yet another helped me put Alyson’s snowshoes on since my fingers weren’t quite back yet. I thanked them all profusely. We began heading down through the trees rife with screams. JB thankfully returned to normalcy now and stayed with me out of the way of the litter and the rescuers who were carrying it down. The rescuers were a picture of efficiency… a few broke trail through the trees frequently to make a straight-line path for the litter and keep it from too much switch-backing down the standard trail… the others maneuvered the litter through the broken snow… then they switched… more and more volunteer rescuers surged up through the forest. I learned that there were 6 or more different organizations involved in this effort.
We reached the bottom where the trail through the forest met up with the road. Here a fire had been lit. I sank to my knees by the fire and tried to get my face close to it to melt off the caked rime. The warmth brought my strength and sensation back. I took my skis back from the rescuer who was carrying it at the time and strapped it to my pack. I didn’t want to use his time which could be better spent helping Alyson. I didn’t also want to risk skiing back down the trail weaving between rescuers and snowmobilers in the dark and breaking my own leg… especially because my headlamp was now dim. Alyson was now down to a safe place… all that was left to do was to attach her litter to a snowmobile and haul her down the road. I decided to hike back down with JB allowing the rescuers to do their job unobstructed. Rescuers were hiking up the road in groups of 3 to 4 and I stopped to introduce myself and thank all of them. I recognized one gentleman I had climbed with before… on that trip he had helped masterfully navigate through a 15 foot visibility whiteout on James Peak, 3 winters prior.
JB and I got back down to the TH at around 2:30AM. JB sprinted the last 100 yards as soon as he saw the lights of the trailhead... he flew into Josh's truck and fell asleep. I felt like doing the same. Rescuers gave me a chicken salad sandwich that I wolfed down hungrily and flushed down with some Gatorade… I had eaten an apple and a couple slices of raisin bread with tomato jam since noon. Alyson had not even had that much. I met Shawn and Josh and conveyed to them the firsthand news that Alyson was safe and being brought down. Josh looked shaken and was filled with relief to see me and hear the good news. I had a quick conversation with them. Shawn explained that there was indeed some debate on whether we were located on the SE slopes of Rosalie or on the West side of the peak… understandable, given that there were almost 6 disparate rescue organizations involved in this effort. It was a good thing we were aggressive in our attraction techniques with the lights, whistles, strobe, and singing. I headed off to my Jeep, slowly dusted the 6” of accumulated snow off of it and scraped the windshields painstakingly. I drove down the 4WD road which was now fairly thick with snow. I saw Alyson being loaded into the ambulance... I stood there at a loss for words… a rescuer came up and said “Everything you did up there to keep her warm made the difference tonight…”… I stared back blankly, shook myself and mumbled again “Thank you guys for coming out tonight”… My overall impression of all teams involved in this rescue effort was “WOW…!” I hopped in my Jeep… it was a long drive back and I needed sleep and food… but first sleep.
Saturday was spent doing things in mechanical fashion… there was no time to comprehend what was going on. I woke up at 1PM on Sunday and sat on my bed with my head in my hands… all the events of the previous day rushed into my head at once and overwhelmed me to tears. I can’t help but contemplate divine intervention… Alyson will soon be running ultra-marathons again and I will soon lose my superpowers of being able to get baking trays out of the oven without oven mitts once my mild frostbite heals…
Kevin had wanted to head back up in search of us as soon as he learned Alyson was in trouble. He would have been a fine aide in our efforts. He was not permitted to do so by the rescuers. He is a great man and went back to retrieve Alyson’s pack on Wednesday (2/24). Somehow we had forgotten the pack between all the new snow that fell that night, the bustle of loading Alyson on the litter and my vision being dulled temporarily by the rime. I would love to climb with him again any day.
Alpine rescue was the first team to make it up to us that night... they are a first class outfit. I'm glad they got to us when they did because 15 minutes before their lights had appeared Alyson had complained for the first time of light headedness resulting from blood-loss from all the internal bleeding (We later learned she had lost ~2 units (~900 ml) of blood to internal bleeding… there are roughly 12 units of blood in an adult human). I would have kept her warm through the night but would have been at a complete loss for what to do had she fainted from loss of blood. I would have definitely stayed with her… but stay with her and do what? I learned last night that it is first priority to elevate the patient’s legs when he/she is getting light-headed. I had not done that earlier because (1) it was causing Alyson immense pain and (2) Putting her flat on the snow would have accelerated her hypothermia… To survive the cold of the night I had one pair of dry mittens left and 2 pairs of hand warmers. I could also have used my avy shovel to dig and build a small wall to shelter us from the Westerly wind… that could’ve given us shelter enough to get my jetboil going for some Ramen… we could also have heated up her tea and boiled some of the chicken noodle soup I keep in my emergency rations. We would’ve survived the night with some frostbite but all my supplies would have been useless if she had lost consciousness. “What-if” type thoughts like that one tortured me the following day. I had managed to stay free of them on Saturday because other tasks kept my mind occupied. Thoughts apart, I am very thankful for all the favorable “coincidences” from Saturday that led to Alyson Kruetzer’s survival… her incredible bravery had made this ordeal so much easier to endure. Alyson is trying to use a walker today… Now, six days hence, her leg is swollen profusely and her hospital stay is being extended by a day to allow blood transfusions. Memories from Saturday keep coming back periodically but I am so thrilled that she is recovering well.
EDIT: A week later on Sunday (2/27) Alyson walked a 100 yards with me on crutches. It is quite amazing to be witness to her recovery. Yesterday (2/26) was an interesting day... both of us were involuntarily clock-watching all afternoon thinking back to the ordeal a week prior and re-living the events that took place at each moment.
My renewed faith in the human race (Opinions section… please avoid if uninterested)
I learned of the power of staying positive in a tough situation. I take inspiration from Alyson’s bravery and will attempt to replicate how she was if I am ever in her situation, God forbid. It is her own bravery that saw her through Saturday night and not what anyone else did. I think anyone in my situation would have done exactly as I did (I can rattle off any number of names of friends of mine who would do the same for me), for I did not feel that my actions were a consequence of my particular personality. There was definitely a power that moved my arm. I say this because what I was on Saturday is not what I am today… on Saturday I stepped through actions with confidence, moved from task to task with fluid ease… did not allow disappointments (such as the chopper taking off without Alyson) to affect ensuing actions… I was in a meditative state throughout. But today I am back to my normal state where my thoughts or actions of this minute affect what I think or do the next. I firmly believe that any other human being would be affected the same way… I believe there is divine power within us that rises to the surface when we’re placed in a situation like this… this power remains hidden as we interact with society in our routine life. My friends Joe and Al called me on Sunday since they thought I was supposed to climb Blanca on Saturday… they asked if I was okay because the clouds over Blanca looked ominous… “Do you need to be rescued?” Joe asked half in jest but I know that if I were stuck there he would not have hesitated to do what I did for Alyson. “Not today, no”, I responded…” Yesterday would have been nice though man”. Any material goal I have set and achieved in my life thus far feels nonsensical compared to this. As Alyson thanked me (in the middle of one of the tougher waves of the storm) for sticking with her I mentioned to her that I felt so infinitely happier being there at that moment than when I finished climbing the 14ers. I would do it all over again if I had to.
Quotes from members of the Alpine Rescue Team“We were about a quarter mile away when we first heard you yell in response to our yells. The whistles were quite distinct--usually whistles carry farther than voice, especially in wind. We did hear the singing. =) We saw the lights not too long after that, but there was a ridge between us which kept us from seeing you any sooner. You did right to stay in one spot and make yourselves as visible as possible. One thing I would suggest you carry in your packs is a tarp--REI sells them with one side a shiny aluminium-type cover and the other a bright orange. This makes a great wind break, is very warm, and the reflective side (as well as the bright orange side) is highly visible.”
“Please keep us posted as to how she (Alyson) is doing. I think she has become the team's favorite subject of the year so far, as she was a trooper for dealing with everything that happened. And I hope her dog is doing well...”
“Per your request, the first thing I noticed were your lights. At that point we initiated attraction and that confirmed it was the two of you. Glad everything worked out, tough night.”
“You did a great job keeping Alyson warm and safe, which made our jobs easier. And I will always be impressed with how tough Alyson is to have survived that ordeal. I felt her pain.”
“I have to say that I was really impressed with how the two of you were prepared for your day! If only more people would be as prepared as you guys were, our jobs would be way easier! You guys rock!”
Area Topo from summitpost.org: Red spot marks the approximate location Alyson was injured. The red line marks the trail in the trees and yellow line is the route on the ridge.