Overnight rescue rescues exhausted hiker on remote Colorado mountain pass


Late Monday evening, Custer County Search and Rescue was activated to rescue a cold and exhausted climber on Broken Hand Pass, located below Crestone Needle and in the Sangre de Cristos.

The report of the mountaineer in need of assistance arrived late, at 11.40 p.m. At 2:45 a.m., four members of the technical rope rescue team were on the ground heading towards the subject. Subject was located at approximately 6:05 a.m. and a rappel station was used to lower the climber from the pass.

Everyone was safe and sound off the pitch at 10:42 a.m.

Broken Hand Pass is usually climbed during the standard Crestone Peak or Crestone Needle ascent route, although it is unclear what exactly the climber was doing on the pass. The standard route to the pass would be considered difficult class two, although due to its frequently shaded nature it can remain quite icy. This can become problematic for hikers in the area who choose not to bring traction.

It should be noted that snow and ice do not appear to be present in the images released by the rescue, although much of the pass cannot be seen.

An image of the final season of the full pass can be seen below:

This image shows the road to Broken Hand Pass. The nearly vertical snowfield in the center of the image has to be walked twice during the ascent and descent of either mountain. Photo credit: Spencer McKee.

Rescue teams reminded the public of the unstable weather conditions in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range at this time of year, which can sometimes mean encountering hail, wind, thunderstorms and heavy rain. On technical routes of this nature, these weather hazards can become a major safety problem.

Those looking to climb Broken Hand Pass en route to Crestone Peak or Crestone Needle should be aware that either route means a lot of vertical gain and distance over rough terrain. These routes are very strenuous and can kill. It is recommended to bring traction and hiking poles.

If you are interested in supporting Colorado’s volunteer-led search and rescue operation, one way to do so is to purchase a CORSAR card. It’s cheap, just $3 a year.

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