CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– An amazing story of survival played out atop one of Colorado’s highest peaks. A German shepherd survived eight days nestled on the rocky saw tooth between Mount Bierstadt and Mount Evans.
A hiker spotted the dog on Saturday and rallied a group of strangers to help rescue the animal.
Scott Washburn found the dog while hiking with his wife at about 13,000 feet. He says the dog was in bad shape; severely dehydrated and had trouble breathing.
Washburn described how he and his wife tried to get the dog to come down with them, “I tried to put her over my shoulders. We tried to grab her and move her but the dog was just 100 pounds and there was no way we were getting her out.”
They taped the dogs wounded paws and snapped a picture of the dog. When they finished their climb they posted a picture of the stranded dog on the website 14ers.com. He described how he found the dog and asked if anyone could help. The message board lit up with comments and the climbing community sprung into action.
A complete stranger, Brandon Vail, led a search party that same night. He posted on the message board “A night hike it is.”
“We knew the dog’s life was in jeopardy. We thought if there was something we could do right now, might as well do it. We would have had a hard time sleeping that night if we would not have gone,” said Vail.
A team of four experienced climbers started hiking Mt. Bierstadt at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. They searched through the darkness hoping they would catch a glint of the dog’s eyes in their headlamps. But Vail and his team came up empty.
So Washburn led another effort Monday morning.
“Me and my wife had to abandon that dog,” explained Washburn. “But we came back.”
A total of eight climbers vowed to help Washburn and left for Mt. Bierstadt early Monday morning.
Ralph Kolva was one of them, “Everyone wanted to help and those of us who could did.”
Alex Gelb and his friend Chase Lindell also joined the search.
“The thought of a dog slowly dying on the top of the mountain is tough to stomach. That’s why we went.”
The group powered through a snow squall near the summit of Mt Bierstadt and found the dog right where Washburn had last seen it, on the treacherous saw tooth. They named the dog “Lucky.”
Lindell, Gelb, and the rest of the group took turns carrying the dog down the steep Mountainside in a backpack.
Washburn said the group has become fast friends, with two things in common, their love for Colorado’s 14ers and the love for animals.
“Eight guys who never met each other came together to rescue a dog that they’d only seen in a picture,” said Washburn.
When they got to the bottom the group posted pictures of the hike on the message board, which garnered cheers of support from other climbers.
But that night they got an unexpected post. The original owner of the dog, Anthony Ortoalni, came forward. In a post, he said he left his dog, named Missy, when he and his climbing partner were injured on August 5, eight days before the dog was rescued. Ortolani apologized for taking the dog on the dangerous section of trail and asked for his dog back.
He also thanked the rescue teams on the message board and praised their heroism. But now there’s a custody battle brewing over the dog.
“Personally, I don’t believe he deserved the dog, he left that dog for dead.” Washburn’s statement sums up the sentiments of his rescue group.
Lucky, or Missy, depending who you ask, is in the care of a veterinarian. The dog was several dehydrated but is doing much better now. Animal control will decide who gets to keep the dog.
Read the postings on the 14ers.com message board here: 14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=36893