A hiker with an unspecified knee injury was rescued by emergency personnel Saturday afternoon in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, according to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Authorities received a report that a 54-year-old man from Austin, Texas, separated from his party while attempting to complete the Four Pass Loop, a 27-mile backcountry hike with more than 8,000 vertical feet of climbing. The loop is located about nine miles south of Aspen.
The hiker started out at 6 a.m. Friday from the Maroon Lake parking lot with nine other hikers. “The reporting party stated the overdue hiker was going to walk between six and eight miles toward Buckskin Pass, then ‘see how he was feeling’ before deciding whether to continue or not,” the release states.
Deputies determined on Saturday that a search mission was warranted. Mountain Rescue Aspen was notified and a team was mobilized. An all-volunteer group of 21 MRA members was deployed into the field, the release says.
MRA team members interviewed several people in the area while working their way up the Snowmass Creek trailhead, Buckskin Pass and West Maroon Pass. Three teams in the area learned from several people that the subject had been seen in different locations, still attempting the Four Pass Loop. One couple that was interviewed said they camped with the individual in the Fravert Basin area on Friday night, according to the release.
At approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday, rescuers made contact with the overdue hiker near the summit of West Maroon Pass. The individual was treated in the field with an isolated right knee injury. He was helped down the trail to just below Crater Lake, where more MRA team members met him and loaded him into a litter down to the Maroon Bells day-use area where an Aspen Ambulance District crew was waiting.
All MRA team members were out of the field by 8:45 p.m. Saturday, the release states.
The sheriff’s office and MRA issued a reminder that people hiking and recreating in the backcountry should never voluntarily separate from the group.
“Intentional separation is one of the leading causes of search-and-rescue missions. Often times, other hiking buddies are your quickest resource for help when the unplanned or unexpected occurs,” the release adds.