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Shaun G. Bhargav

Colorado Heroes

There are groups of community rescuers in Colorado who are among the most important people to ever live. They are medics, veterans, deputies, volunteers, neighbors, comedians, and trained search & rescue operatives. To us, inspiration.

When my wife and I summited our first Colorado 14er, we snapped some photos from the top.

Shortly after that, around about 13,500' on the descent, she slipped and twisted her ankle. She said "this is the most pain I've ever felt for an ankle sprain". Appearing seemingly out of nowhere, a nursing student and another man offering first aid supplies engaged with us. The man gave us medical tape and ibuprofen. The nurse hacked a splint. After a 20 minute rest, we were walking again; it wasn't going well and a passerby talked us into calling for help. 9-1-1.

We were connected and explained our situation. They said they'd send a team. Some time later we got the confirmation: 3 people were ascending. Meanwhile, the two of us are high up this mountain (Quandary Peak). It was around 1pm, the weather had help up so far, though it was getting chilly and nearby thunderclouds left an ominous feel. We were moving down slowly, grimacing with every step, some were more painful than others.

It was getting colder and the skies were somewhat precarious (lightning strikes are common this high up). We pushed on, extremely slowly. The 800mg ibuprofen began to kick in. It was about 2.5-3 hours from when she fell to when the first rescuer arrived. Later we'd learn that these rescuers were regular people who saw the call, dropped whatever they were doing and came ASAP.

Matt, a medic, assessed the situation and made quick work of wrapping her ankle in a splint. Along with Travis and I, he got her moving down the mountain amidst frozen rain bits, lightning not far off, and goats. Meanwhile team 2 with the evacuation gear was on their way up.

I remember when Shaily asked if insurance would cover the rescue. The response: "This won't cost you anything. There's no cost for rescue in North America." "We are volunteers". When he said that, I was overcome by a wave of emotion. I must have cried a dozen times more before it was over. How good these folks were to push so hard to help us. Truly selfless.

For 30 minutes we walked slowly downwards, until meeting up with the downright hilarious team 2 and their stretcher-on-a-unicycle contraption. They liked calling it "the rickshaw". To move a patient on the rickshaw took 8 operators, plus a lead who called out commands (mostly about terrain), plus assistants to swap in, or help navigate the more treacherous portions of the trail. They took her carefully over rocks, tree roots, stairs, a bridge, and all the way down to the road where our car was. More and more rescuers showed up along the way to assist. They paid her close attention and took really good care.

My hat is off to the heroes of Summit County, Colorado, and all the amazing citizen rescuers of North America; they are the greater good.


Fast Forward

At the hospital, X-rays confirmed a minor fracture in the ankle (medial malleolus). 4-6 weeks before we can get back on the trail.