The snow is almost gone in the Pikes Peak region, with surrounding mountain ranges still holding deep pockets in their couloirs and shady spots. As a result, a heck of a lot more people are playing outdoors, exploring new areas, and training hard. Unfortunately, this also equates to a lot more Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. For simplicity sake, there are two categories of folks SAR frequently helps - I have nicknamed these two, “The Vulnerable” and “The Resilient.” The Vulnerable generally do minimal research on the area they choose to explore, don’t dress right for the conditions, pack little of what they may need (if anything at all), and/or push themselves way beyond their physical or mental limit. Often these folks are simply too exhausted, underprepared for the terrain, or get lost due to lack of appropriate navigation skills or tools. This is not to say these folks are dummies; In fact, these are often our fun, spontaneous and happy-go-lucky friends – the ones that would join you in anything! On the other spectrum, the Resilient, refer to those that planned, dressed, and packed right. They may have even left their intended route with a family member or friend. These individuals, however, have a “bad day” and flip over their mountain bike, take a mondo lead fall on a climbing route, or sprain an ankle running down the trail. These folks planned for a safe and enjoyable day, yet their plan got derailed.
In honesty, there is more variety to the SAR missions in El Paso County, and SAR is glad to help anyone who needs it. Let’s admit it, nature is powerful. Prepared or not, one can get really lost or really injured. I differentiated between the above two categories because they are bookends on the continuum of runners that I know. On one end there is the “Uber-Ultralight Runner,” the one that packed only a water bottle and maybe a gel for a trip to Barr Camp and back. On the other end, there is the “Speedy Pseudo-Hiker,” essentially a standard hiker with a day pack but running in trail kicks. I fall into the later camp due to insight gleaned from rescuing countless fellow runners out of the mountains. With that being said, I value solid preparation.
As the summer temps climb higher, it’s time for me to do the same. I need to log some longer days on my feet, and to incorporate steep hills and high altitude. With that awareness, I took an hour to overhaul my trail running pack. A good pack or vest is essential! Currently, I am rocking an older-model 70 oz. Nathan Intensity Hydration Vest. I pulled out the hydration system because it was leaking and, because I have yet to master drinking from the BiteMe valve while running. I dig the size and fit of this women-specific pack, but have been eyeing a new pack/vest, like one of the Salomon’s S-lab models. In my pack I have:
I keep this stuff in my running pack at all times, and replenish the water, snacks, batteries, etc, when needed. It seems like a boat-load of gear, but its minimal weight for a potentially huge return (if something did go wrong on the trail). I have two additional recommendations, yet need to do a better job complying with both. The first is to invest in a SPOT, DeLorme inReach, or ResQLink PLB (personal locating beacon) and actually bring it on your backcountry runs. Cell phone service is limited in many remote areas of Colorado. Sometimes texts will be able to go through, when a call can’t. In fact, the El Paso County Sherriff’s department acknowledges texts for emergencies, and is sometimes able to ping your phone to get your location. However, SPOT and similar tracking devices are way better at it and can lead to a far quicker rescue (and can alleviate worry for a loved one if you”SPOT”/ check in along your route). My other recommendation is to always leave your adventure route and “Oh-Sh*t” time with someone reliable. If you plan your runs last minute or aren’t exactly sure where the wind will take you that day (this tends to be my style), leave a note of the potential routes/wilderness area on the dashboard of your car or text it to a friend.
In conclusion, if I ever need to call SAR to aide me in the backcountry due to a “run gone wrong,” I’ll at least be able to wait more comfortably till they arrive. I may even be able to self-rescue or to weather an overnight, if needed. I know that as I train harder and play outdoors longer, my chance of running into misfortune increases. However, I will make sure to fall into the more Resilient category of folks that SAR helps. Hope you can do the same, my friends!
Catch you out on the trails!
- Anna, Mighty Marmot 2016 -
p.s. Colorado does not charge for Search and Rescue services. However, I would strongly encourage you to obtain a CORSAR card (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dola/colorado-outdoor-recreation-s...) and/or donate to your local Search and Rescue Team (www.epcsar.org).