Denver Woman Describes Harrowing Mountain Rescue

Written by Paul Day
DENVER (CBS4) – A 28-year-old Denver woman described her amazing rescue over the weekend from near the top of a 13,000-foot peak.

“My leg snapped and my bone started protruding out of my skin,” said Alyson Kruetzer as she recovers from surgery at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.

Kruetzer and two friends had reached the summit late Saturday morning. With her climbing partner, Prakash Manley, Kruetzer was headed back down when she slipped around 1 p.m. on ice and fractured her left femur.

“I just screamed for a long time because the pain was so intense,” she recalled.

What started out as a windy but blue sky day suddenly began to turn stormy. Manley could see Kruetzer was becoming hypothermic. At great sacrifice, he shed most of his winter clothing to keep the injured woman from freezing to death.

“He saved my life,” she said.

Darkness closed in and the pair found themselves huddled in near white-out conditions. Luckily, Kruetzer had earlier been able to use her cell phone to alert a friend of her situation. So help was on the way but the two experienced mountaineers knew it would take several hours.

After an unsuccessful Flight For Life Effort (watch video report below) a massive ground rescue effort was mobilized, including Park County Search & Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Douglas, El Paso, and Summit Counties as well as Platte Canyon Fire. But it was slow going in the dark; team members had to hike through several miles of blinding snow.

“Search and Rescue couldn’t find us,” she remembered.

Kruetzer says “J.B” — her faithful black Labrador retriever who’d joined her on the hike — was the one who helped save the day.

“When my dog saw the lights like a mile away, he just started barking and that’s how I think they found us.”

The journey down off the mountain was a painful, agonizing experience. She said the only way to successfully transport her over the steepest section was to drag her in what she describes as basically an “inflatable body bag.” From the time she broke her leg to when she finally reached the trailhead and a waiting ambulance was 14 hours.

Interviewed Monday by CBS4 from her hospital bed, she gave thanks and praise to her rescuers and her climbing partner as well as her dog.

A self-described veteran of numerous ascents on all of Colorado’s highest mountain peaks, Kruetzer told CBS4 she’s survived much worse and, until now, never been seriously hurt.

She hopes to get out of the hospital sometime later this week.

Will this brush with death keep her from climbing in the high country?

“Absolutely not,” she said. “Mountains are my passion and I will go back.”

  • Fred Franken

    There I was..on a mountain…and I almost died…..


    • Frank Frankenjunk

      Really Fred? Why even take the time to comment? Do you climb? In winter? Ever break a bone then face a winter storm on a peak? Then why the stupidity?

      “There Fred was… eating Ding-Dongs and reading a news story online… and almost fell asleep… ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”

      I agree with Cindi, a good article on the men and women who risk their lives (and sacrifice a lot) to help those who are injured or lost would be really cool. Maybe a series.

      Although I’m sure Fred Frankenjunk would probably find it tediously dull. You’d have to withstand his preeminent scrutiny.

  • M

    No one every gives the location – ? A 13er somewhere in Park, EL Paso, Douglas or Summit? Helllo —- a little journalism please?

    • Bridget

      It was said several times – Mount Rosalie!!

    • Frank Frankenjunk

      I agree, to know the mountain would have been very helpful. Maybe that was Fred’s true reason for souring at this article…

  • Chelsea Mulder

    I think it is awesome that rescuers got to her so quickly in the conditions that they were in, and were able to save the girl’s life. That is the story.

  • michael

    im glad to see she made it,regardless the rescue could not get her on the first atempt the rescue team(flight for life) should have the assets to at the very least give her the supplies needed for a night .

  • Cindi

    Flight for Life did a great job rescuing this gal, along with her friend and her dog. Winter hiking at such elevations should be undertaken only after careful consideration – consideration for those who place their own lives on the line to save others. I encourage more coverage of the rescuers with (yet again) warnings to the would-be hikers.

    • mj

      The problem was flight for life couldn’t get to her in time before the storm and left them with no supplies. I agree they needed to think of their safety; however they should have been more prepared. I can assure you grate consideration was taken, as Alyson has hiked every 14ner and almost every 13ner in Colorado, not to mention all the hikes in Alaska she has been on as well. I think that the search and rescue team did a great job, while risking their lives and am thankful for them , however don’t be too quick to judge and assume that all hikers that get lost or hurt were unprepared or inexperienced.

      • Bridget

        AMEN!!! Alyson led me on 10 14er hikes in the summer of 2009! During those hikes, I was in the best possible care and professionalism. She was beyond safe and cautious!! This didn’t happen because of her lack of experience. It was merely an accident and she is fortunate to be alive today!! Thank you Search and Rescue, JB, and Prakash for saving my friends life!

  • scout

    ummmm, why hike there in this season anyway???? And then we hear all this drama when the rescuers that risk their lives have a difficult time getting them out of there…or even getting to them. I’m pretty sure search and rescue thinks about their safety first too…….and not be part of the problem.

  • SAR

    Rosalie Peak (13,500) – south of Mt Evans.

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