Maroon Pass

Looking down the Crested Butte side of West Maroon Pass. A hiker in a group traveling the Aspen-to-Crested Butte route unexpectedly spent the night after becoming separated from the rest of her party, but was found safe Tuesday morning.

A Snowmass Village woman reported missing Monday evening who was hiking from Aspen to Crested Butte was found Tuesday morning by an emergency search and rescue team, according to Mount Crested Butte police.

Katie Guimond, 35, was last seen Monday at the summit of West Maroon Pass, according to Mount Crested Butte public information officer Marjorie Trautman.

“It’s my understanding that she and her group were hiking from Aspen,” she said. “At sometime around 3:30 p.m., the group was all together at the summit, and that may have been the time she asked the group to go ahead without her.”

The three other people from Guimond’s group waited at the trailhead on the Crested Butte side for about two hours before calling authorities around 8:30 p.m. 

“They went up from Pitkin search and rescue and our search and rescue to the peak. Neither party found her, and by then, nightfall had set and it was getting risky for anybody to be out in the field,” Trautman said.

Though the full report hadn’t been finished at close of business Tuesday, Trautman said she’d heard hypotheses that Guimond likely got turned around when heading down the trail from the summit and instead headed toward Frigid Air Pass.

“She lost her way and must have hunkered down at some point,” she continued. “Search and rescue was resumed [the next] morning at roughly first light, and by about 10:15, they made contact. She was fine; she was unhurt. Nothing more but a couple of feet full of a couple of blisters, but she did spend the night in the dark.”

It’s relatively common for Pitkin County and Mount Crested Butte to collaborate on search and rescue efforts. MCB police act as Gunnison County sheriff’s deputies as well, simply because officers can take advantage of closer geographical proximity to respond immediately, Trautman explained.

“We greatly respect our search and rescue team and Pitkin County search and rescue. The work that these two groups often do together and cooperation is really incredible, and we really do respect it. They’re putting themselves out there, too,” she said.

Guimond’s experience, unfortunately, is not an isolated one.

“We had another woman just a week before do this: [she] mischose the trail and ended up spending the night out just because it got dark that fast,” Trautman said. “Everybody’s safe, and that’s the important part.”

Especially during this time of year — when wildflowers are still blooming and leaves are changing but days are shorter — a solo hike is especially risky. Trautman recommends anyone plan ahead for the unexpected.

“Even experienced hikers can get turned around on their track or injured or an unexpected onset of altitude sickness, so having enough items with you in preparation of spending the night is always a good thing,” she said. “One of those tiny emergency blankets, extra layers, food and water just in case. Throw in that extra bag of almonds or something to get you through the night. We just don’t know when things are going to go wrong.”

Although search and rescue continuously calls for the victims for whom they’re looking, it may not always be possible for someone in the field to verbally return those calls, depending on location or injury. 

“Having an ability to signal with a whistle or a light reflector would be valuable,” Trautman noted.

The bottom line, she emphasized, is that caution is always appropriate.

“Hiking seems lovely and wonderful on a beautiful, wonderful September day, and then all the sudden it’s nighttime and you’re in the middle of nowhere and you can’t self rescue because it’s too dark to find the trail,” she said.

Megan Tackett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.