In Search of Rescue
Carry on smiling throughout your adventures by following basic trail preparedness rules, and consider sharing the great outdoors with a partner if you are unfamiliar with the area.
Colorado Springs, home to some of the most stunning scenery in the country, draws over 6 million visitors annually. Our beautiful landmarks may feature well-marked trails and easily-accessible viewpoints, but one organization in particular is prepared for the worst.
Colorado weather is predictably unpredictable, and El Paso sees more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the state -- nearly 30,000 per year -- and almost double that of Pueblo County. Thunderstorms roll in despite a clear forecast, and microbursts, a sudden and violent downward gust, are commonplace.
Weather aside, some people just aren’t prepared for their journey.
“We see a major increase in calls in the summer with increased tourism,” says Patty Baxter, board member and volunteer at El Paso County Search and Rescue (EPCSAR), a 501(c)(3) organization made up of 65 unpaid volunteers that locate and rescue lost, injured, or otherwise endangered individuals. “It’s warm, people don’t eat or hydrate well, and they underestimate the effects of altitude, so they get heat exhaustion; or they get tired, leading to a lot of ankle, lower leg, or head injuries.”
“The Ten Essentials are really important to remember, even for experienced outdoors people,” Baxter continues. Those are navigation, sun protection, extra clothing, illumination, first-aid kit, fire, repair kit/tools, nutrition, hydration, and shelter.
EPSCAR frequents the Manitou Incline, the free (for now) local and tourist favorite that sees over 150,000 annual visitors.
“Pikes Peak, from bottom to top, tends to have the bulk of our missions,” says Baxter.
DON'T HESITATE TO CALL (OR TEXT) 911
EPCSAR is an invaluable, and free, resource, with experience ranging from newly-vetted recruits to 44-year veterans.
“After people reach 911, dispatch connects to us. Typically we have some kind of contact with the person who has called 911, via phone or text. Sometimes we can ping their phone and get an idea of where they are.”
Yes, you can text 911. In spotty cell reception areas, texts are more likely to succeed since it requires less signal time.
“We get calls like ‘My spouse was mountain biking. She’s 8 hours overdue,’ in which case we might have a large area search, depending if they told anyone where they were going,” says Baxter.
Searching a large area is time-consuming. In those cases, it’s crucial for individual to find a safe place and stay put.
“One of the biggest challenges in locating a lost person is if they are moving on us. We’ll search and clear an area, but if they keep moving, and they return to that area, we won’t be back to search that cleared area for quite a while.”
KEEP TO THE TRAILS
Cutting switchbacks or “bushwhacking” is not only destructive, causing erosion and confusion for future trail users, but it can be extremely dangerous. EPCSAR’s Twitter feed is a string of dislocated knees, twisted ankles, and broken legs caused by falling while cutting trails. Local trail organizations work tirelessly to route and maintain the area, so please respect it.
Adventurers may find the following apps useful:
• US Army Survival Guide
• Backpacker Checklist
• MotionX GPS