The local Search and Rescue motto is "Intervening for Natural Selection":
A man, 30, and a woman, 24, both from Golden, called 911 for help at 7 p.m. Wednesday from the Hermosa Creek Drainage, saying they were caught in the rain and hail. They were equipped with a global-satellite positioning receiver and were able to provide rescuers with their exact location.
They had only shorts and T-shirts, and no way of starting a fire, said Butch Knowlton, director of La Plata County Search and Rescue.
Rescue members spent all night trying to reach the couple. When they finally did at 6:15 a.m., all the bicyclists needed were an extra layer of clothes and a cup of hot chocolate, Knowlton said. They then rode out on their own power.
“The calls that we received indicated they were in a very critical situation, and therefore, we responded to the call," Knowlton said. “It was difficult to understand the fact that once they got some hot chocolate and warmed up a little, they took off."
Agencies that participated included Search and Rescue, Montezuma County Search and Rescue, the La Plata County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Mounted Rangers.
A private helicopter was used to fly in supplies, but the effort was unsuccessful, Knowlton said.
The cyclists started at the south Hermosa Creek Trailhead and rode up the trail. They ended up on the divide between Rico and Hermosa Creek and started back south. They became stranded on the south ridge of South Hope of the Hermosa Creek Drainage, northwest of Durango.
They were in town as part of a Yeti mountain bicycling event.
“It was a late start for them to do a 40-mile ride, and they were totally ill prepared," Knowlton said. “They had T-shirts and shorts, and that is it."
Rescue workers spoke to the riders several times during the night via a cell phone, and they kept indicating they were hypothermic and miserable, Knowlton said.
“We were led to believe it was a very dire situation," he said.
Rescue workers were perturbed to reach the pair and find they were in good shape. The cyclists didn't need medical attention or need to be airlifted out of the backcountry.
“It's very frustrating for (rescue workers) who went out into these conditions to provide assistance for these people," Knowlton said.
Still, rescue workers are pleased the couple are Ok, he said.
“I'm glad that they survived the night," Knowlton said. “I'm sure that it was a miserable night for them."
The initial article yesterday:
Area search and rescue crews were trying to get warm clothes to two bicyclists caught in the high country Wednesday night.
"This is a life-and-death situation," Butch Knowlton, La Plata County Director of Emergency Preparedness, said at about 10 p.m. "They're hypothermic, and we are gravely concerned."
Knowlton said the two people, who are on mountain bikes, have a GPS unit and had given their coordinates. They were at an elevation of 10,800 feet on a high ridge between the Hermosa area and the Dolores River Basin, northwest of Durango.
"All they have on are T-shirts and shorts," Knowlton said. "They were caught in heavy hail and rain between and 5 p.m." He said the ridge where the cyclists were had been under a severe-storm warning by the National Weather Service at that time.
"They became disoriented and lost the trail," he said.
Search and rescue volunteers from Montezuma and Dolores counties were attempting to reach them from the Dolores River Basin, and La Plata County Search and Rescue workers were going up from the east. Continuing storm cells complete with lightning were hampering efforts.
"We're trying to get an aircraft to drop La Plata County Search and Rescue in to take them blankets and warm clothes," Knowlton said.
He didn't know the cyclists' names or where they are from.
Edited by Alpinord - 8/12/10 at 10:03am