PARK COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A Denver-area couple walked out of the wilderness as the sun came up Saturday – cold, wet, tired, hungry.
The couple, Dave and Heather Skillman, set out last Sunday for a three-day excursion. Miles into the journey, they lost the trail in the snow and veered into unfamiliar terrain.
They were reported missing Wednesday morning.
Later that day, the couple, stuck at the bottom of a snowy ravine with their dog, ran out of food.
But, said Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw, they had one thing going for them.
“They had a plan,” McGraw said. “They let (a friend) know they were going in on Sunday and coming out on Tuesday. When they didn’t show up for work Wednesday, he called search and rescue.”
They were also well equipped with a tent, sleeping bags, and fire source, thanks to that friend’s expertise.
The helicopter, a Lakota model from the Colorado Army National Guard, spotted the couple on its second sweep through the high country, around 4 p.m. Friday.
Two ground teams organized, according to McGraw, and began trudging toward the couple from separate points four and eight miles away. The helicopter crew dropped a message to the couple, advising them rescuers might take six hours to get to them.
Once they did, the rescue teams fed and warmed the couple, then led them out — uphill, at first, toward a known and established trail.
At 6:20 a.m., the Skillmans exited the snowy wilderness at the Goose Creek Trailhead.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Sheriff McGraw said. “Three days, thirty-five to forty people over those three days. They’re all at home sleeping now.”
Park County Search and Rescue and the Park County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Teller County Search and Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, Douglas County Search and Rescue, and the Lake George and Hartsel fire departments.
They Skillmans told the sheriff it was their first overnight backcountry trip together.
That’s going to be a hard adventure to top.