CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — Chaffee Search & Rescue – South (Chaffee SAR) reminds the public to follow rules and signs for rock climbing after rescuing a cliffed-out father and son Friday morning.
At 6 a.m., Chaffee SAR was called on a report of two overdue hikers in the Shavano and Tabeguache areas.
Initial information indicated that a 63-year-old father and 34-year-old son of Evergreen Park, Illinois had left the Angel of Shavano Trailhead at 4:30 a.m. in an attempt to summit one or both peaks on July 28.
Chaffee SAR responded with teams to initially clear trails throughout the base of Shavano as well as the standard route to the summits of both peaks. As teams progressed, the missing father and son called 911. Cell phone pings located the pair in McCoy Gulch. All teams were diverted to that area.
A technical rescue team of four Chaffee SAR members ascended the east ridgeline and was able to reach the father and son east of McCoy Gulch around 1 p.m.
The two from Illinois had become cliffed-out, meaning they could not climb up or down, after attempting to descend McCoy Gulch that morning. They had spent the night in the ridges above McCoy and west of Shavano’s summit. The father and son attempted to descend west of Shavano’s summit in bad weather hoping it would lead a path back to the trailhead.
“They came very close to death or serious injury as many others before them have in McCoy,” said Chaffee SAR in a social media post.
The pair was perched on an approximately 45-degree rock face. The father was found standing on a large boulder with his son standing on a tree trunk against the rock just below him.
Due to the amount of loose rock, the team determined the safest option was to set an anchor and lower a sling to each subject. The sling would then raise each individual to a more secure platform.
When SAR lifted the father from the boulder, it gave way and struck the tree the son had been standing on just minutes before.
“This is an almost yearly reminder of why all guide books and maps state ‘Do not descend McCoy Gulch,'” said Chaffee SAR. “Deceivingly mellow high on the west ridges of Shavano and Tabeguache, it quickly turns into a steep, narrow canyon with slick waterfalls and loose, scree and talus-filled sides. It is an unforgiving route.”
The Search and Rescue team was able to retrace a path along the eastern ridges and safely descend back down with both individuals despite loose rock and treacherous conditions. Additional teams remained fielded in support roles throughout the operation, said Chaffee SAR.
Chaffee SAR encourages the public to research your route, plan for bad weather and remember that a class two or three rated summit is only a guide for the established route. It is not an indication of conditions off of that route.
The rescue was Chaffee SAR South’s 22nd mission of the season.