A Chicago hiking family had a lucky escape on Wednesday after they became stranded atop the Greenhorn mountains in Colorado as nightfall set in – with officials praising the family for acting promptly when they realized they were in danger.
The family of five – three adults and two children – went on a hike on the Greenhorn Trailhead Wednesday morning and were nearing the summit when they were slowed down by the effects of worsening conditions along the icy terrain, according to the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO).
Unexpected snow and the effects of high altitude were taking their toll on the family as they became fatigued with no food and inadequate clothing for the bitingly cold weather.
And, with dusk setting in and temperatures plummeting atop the 11,300-foot high mountain, the Chicago family soon realized they wouldn’t be able to make it back to their starting point and called 911 for help.
A multi-agency rescue team was then quickly assembled and sprang into action.
Members of the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) were airlifted to the top of North Peak where they managed to locate the freezing family via GPS signals. They gave the shivering family food, water and extra clothing.
The SAR team then hiked with the family for about a mile over the peak where they were met by fire personnel who had hiked from the Bartlett Trailhead.
The entire group then hiked the rest of the way to the top of Ophir Creek where emergency vehicles were waiting for them.
The groups then arrived down the mountain safely, the PCSO said, where the family were met with relatives who had sat out the hike. The PCSO said the rescue operation took seven hours to complete.
Photos released by the PCSO show the difficult snowy terrain last Wednesday.
Despite getting themselves into a dangerous situation, the PCSO heaped praise on the family for taking a number of precautions before setting off on the hike and having the wherewithal to call for help before their cell phones died.
For instance, the family had an outdoor survival kit, and they told their relatives of their hiking plans prior to departure.
They also followed 911 operator instructions and remained in one location until rescuers could arrive and locate them.
The PCSO alerted mountain hikers, or people going on trails, to be prepared and aware of rapidly changing conditions before they set out, noting temperatures drop drastically in the winter months when the sun sets.
The Greenhorn Trail is 7.8 miles long. Its beginning elevation is 7,460 feet and tops out at 11,340 feet, a gain of 3,880 feet, according to the Forest Service.
The agency listed the trail as moderate for hiking.
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