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Exclusive: Crestone Needle SAR Operation


by Kelly Bates

July 21, 2003

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive Exclusive

10:06, 21 July 2003
According to Custer County Search and Rescue (SAR) in Westcliffe, Colorado, there is an ongoing SAR operation currently in wrap-up in the vicinity of the Ellingwood Arete on Crestone Needle (14,197'). The Ellingwood Ledges route on the Arete is one of the 'Fifty Classic Climbs of North America,' a 2,500 foot alpine route culminating with three more technical pitches (5.5-5.7) at 14,000'.

During the day on Sunday, other climbers in the area reported being signalled by an individual that was off-route (farther along the ridge to climber's right) indicating that he needed assistance. Several spottings were made during the day on Sunday. CC SAR was called yesterday and they mounted an operation in conjunction with Alpine Rescue and El Paso County SAR. Initial reports indicated that a rescue team would need to ascend the mountain and rappel in to the climber's position, as he appeared to have ledged himself and was not able to proceed or retreat on his route.

In addition to deploying numerous people on climbing and support teams, SAR conducted headcounts and attempted to match vehicles with people in the South Colony Lakes basin area, and believe that they interviewed the climber in question, although that individual denied having called for a rescue. After further operations this morning, SAR has not found anyone in the reported positions or in need of assistance on the route, and is in the process of closing out their operations.

Cory Phillips of CC SAR, although happy that the situation has been resolved without a rescue or recovery, said that it is important for people to know that if they call for a rescue, other peoples' lives are going to be put into danger when you do so. "No one was hurt in this operation, except for maybe [the climber's] bruised ego."

SAR members are volunteers that typically take personal time and resources to conduct these operations. They are also supported minimally with funds from hiking certificates and hunting/fishing licenses in the state of Colorado ($1 per year goes to the SAR fund from each sold). Please take responsiblity for yourself when you ask these unpaid professionals to assist you.

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