Three hikers were airlifted from Avalanche Lake on Tuesday.
A personal emergency locator beacon was activated on the Capitol Creek Loop near the lake at 3:40 p.m., according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Initial reports indicated that three women from Texas had been hiking the 38.6-mile loop to Haystack Mountain since Saturday and were scheduled to complete the loop sometime Thursday.
Based on a number of factors, the decision was made for a two-person team to fly into the site by way of a High Altitude Aviation Training Site helicopter. The release cited two factors: that the locator beacon was not moving and that sheriff’s office personnel were able to make contact with hiking-party family members who indicated that the hikers had backcountry experience and would not trigger the beacon without cause.
The beacon that was used in this instance did not allow communication between the rescuers and the distressed parties, other than to provide a location.
“It was the totality of the circumstances,” said Alex Burchetta, operations commander for the sheriff’s office. “We determined that the most reasonable thing to do was at the very least put an aircraft in the air to go see if we could see anything and they found these individuals.”
The rescue team located the three female hikers, one of whom had a leg injury, just before 8 p.m. They were airlifted to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, where an injured 24-year-old was evaluated and released by medical personnel from Aspen Ambulance. Burchetta said she suffered a leg laceration.
All parties were out of the field by 8:32 p.m. The rescue involved the efforts of 18 volunteers from Mountain Rescue Aspen, HAATS, Aspen Ambulance and the sheriff’s office.
An MRA video shows mountain peaks in the vicinity of the rescue site that are covered with an extraordinary amount of snow for early July. Burchetta said that’s an important factor to consider for anyone thinking about making a backcountry expedition.
In the news release, officials reminded individuals to always be prepared with enough gear and provisions for the duration of a backcountry trip — and to be aware of conditions before venturing out.