Being Prepared And Keeping Cool Leads To Happy Ending For Man Injured High In Rocky Mountain National Park

An Illinois man injured when he took a tumble descending Longs Peak at Rocky Mountain National Park was flown off the mountain by search-and-rescue teams. NPS photos.

There's little worse than a successful summit of a classic Colorado 14er than suffering an injury on the way down. But thanks to being prepared and thinking calmly, an Illinois man will heal and no doubt notch many more summits following a tumble on the flanks of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The unidentified 53-year-old from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and his 20-year-old son had summited 14,255-foot Longs Peak on Tuesday and were heading down to their base camp when the father took a tumble of about 25 feet in an area of the mountain known as the "Trough." This is a long, steep gully with loose rocks -- unstable footing perfect for spurring a fall. The man suffered various injuries, including a leg injury and numerous bruises and abrasions.

A few other climbers tried calling for assistance around 5:30 p.m. on cell phones, but the calls were dropped after limited information was given to park dispatch. Dispatchers were only able to hear a hiker was in duress near the “Trough.”

Rather than panicking, the men came up with a logical plan. They had camped Monday night and were planning to camp Tuesday night at a backcountry campsite at the Boulderfield. So, not knowing whether park rangers had been contacted, the son hiked down to their camp and returned to his father with a sleeping bag, First-Aid kit, food, and water. He then turned back around and headed down to the Longs Peak Trailhead nearly eight miles away.

Two rangers, responding to the earlier calls, met the son on the trail at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, roughly two miles from the trailhead. Together they proceeded to the Boulderfield and spent the night. At
first light this morning, they hiked through the “Ledges” to the injured man, reaching him at 6:00 a.m. Two teams of rangers, as well as a paramedic with the Estes Park Medical Center, left Longs Peak Trailhead at 3:00 a.m. and at 5:00 a.m. to support the two rangers on scene.

With assistance from the initial two rangers the man was able to move slowly to the Keyhole area. He then was flown from the Boulderfield (around 12,760 feet) at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday by St. Anthony’s Lifeguard One to Medical Center of the Rockies. Eighteen park staff were involved in this incident.