ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – A rare rescue with a helicopter to reach a military team associated with Fort Carson that ran into problems during a training exercise on Longs Peak.
About 40 people with the National Park Service helped the group of 11 soldiers from the 10th SFG consolidated get down from the mountain with a helicopter on Friday afternoon.
“At that stage of the climb the best thing to do is reach the summit. Most people don’t go down that route, they go down other ways like the north route,” said Rocky Mountain National Park spokesman Mark Pita. “There’s no place to land there, the nearest landing zone from their spot when they called for assistance was the summit.”
The group from Fort Carson was involved in some climbing training, and a few members were having trouble continuing up the route known as Kiener’s Route about 9:30 p.m. Thursday. They were on a very difficult route that involved ropes, harnesses and some vertical pitches.
“There are still winter conditions on Longs Peak, there is snow, ice, loose rock, it’s a very challenging mixed route we call it,” said Pita.
They planned to climb the 14,259-foot Longs Peak but called for help on Thursday and ended up spending the night on the mountain. Park staff told them to hunker down in an area known as “The Ledges.” Three of the climbers became ill from exhaustion and altitude sickness.
“A few members reported having some degree of distress and were having difficulty continuing up the route,” Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said in a prepared statement.
On Friday, they helped one another to the top of the snowy peak, with rangers on hand to assist. Once they reached the top, a helicopter began ferrying them down the mountain.
“They had some medics that were in their group that were able to provide aid. They were in pretty good shape when we got to them, you know, tired, hungry thirsty,” said Pita.
The helicopter made about seven or eight round trips to get everyone off the mountain. They were flown to an area of the park called Upper Beaver Meadows. They stayed there for a couple of hours before leaving the area.
The route the personnel took is not as technical as some but still requires climbers to cross a steep ice field and a ledge that is very narrow at points.
This type of training is not considered out of the ordinary as soldiers of the 10th SFG continually train to enhance their skills in mountain warfare.
The National Park Service told CBS4 they participate in about 20 rescues each year on Longs Peak.