Mountain Rescue helps local couple after hut trip goes awry

Aspen Daily News Staff Report
Aspen Mountain Rescue (MR-A) members helped a local couple out of the backcountry near the Goodwin-Green Hut on Monday, after they had spent one night out in the cold and recuperated at the hut.

Noel and Drew Larson of Woody Creek were called in as overdue Sunday evening by family members after failing to emerge from the backcountry by 5 p.m. as planned. According to family members, the couple were going to the hut as part of their training for the Elk Mountain Traverse race in March.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies worked with the family and Mountain Rescue’s on-call rescue leaders into the night to set up a search mission to begin the next morning. 

A “hasty team” of four MR-A field team members left for the trailhead with four snowmobiles at about 9 a.m. on Monday, followed by an air search team flying out of Sardy Field in a fixed-wing aircraft at about 10:15 a.m. The aircraft spotted the couple leaving the Goodwin-Greene Hut at approximately 10:45 a.m., and were in contact with the snowmobile team shortly thereafter.

According to MR-A, the couple had been within 600 feet of the hut, which is near timberline (11,680 ft) 12 miles south of Aspen Mountain Ski Area, on Saturday night, but had been unable to find it in the dark and blizzard conditions. The couple gave up trying to find the hut about midnight and spent the night on the snow in sleeping bags, but without tent, bivvy or ground cover. They woke up wet and cold, but were able to find their way to Goodwin-Greene in the morning. They decided to spend Sunday and Sunday night in the hut and ski out on Monday, but had no way to communicate their decision to the outside. 

When the snowmobile team made contact they found the couple working their way out on telemark skis. The Larsons were very cold and tired and accepted snowmobile rides back to the Sundeck on top of Aspen Mountain.  

The MR-A field team reported very difficult conditions for snowmobiling: The snowpack was unconsolidated and the sleds frequently got stuck during the operation. All parties were out of the field by about 2 p.m. 

MR-A and the Sheriff’s office would like to remind everyone who enters the backcountry to always be prepared to spend the night outside, even if you plan on getting home, or to a hut, by nightfall.