Two unprepared campers who were cold, exhausted and ill had to be rescued Monday by volunteers near Lake Como, and a search and rescue group is using their story as a cautionary tale for other hikers.
At about 2:35 a.m., Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue were notified by the Colorado State Patrol dispatch about “two hypothermic hikers camped” near the lake, which is at an elevation of 11,765 feet, according to an AVSAR post on Facebook.
The pair had hiked up Lake Como Road on Sunday afternoon intending to camp overnight. They set up camp about 1/4 mile from the lake.
“These hikers were highly unprepared,” AVSAR said. “They had no extra clothing and no way to stay dry in their tent, with no rain fly. These hikers said they did not understand why it was so cold and rainy in Colorado, because it has been ‘so hot in Texas’ where they hike all the time.”
The hikers’ tent was inadequate for Colorado conditions, one of many errors AVSAR says could have resulted in their death had search and rescue not been able to reach them.
“They never checked any weather forecasts and did not have any extra food, water or layers for the intense hike in or the night to camp,” AVSAR posted. “This is an extreme example of how ignorance can kill people suddenly in these mountains.”
On the way up to camp, the pair encountered several AVSAR members on the road who had been training above Lake Como over the weekend. The fatigued and ill-prepared hikers denied assistance as they were heading to the lake.
“On the descent down, there was a river running down the entire road,” AVSAR said. “The subjects were complaining of being so cold that they couldn’t move and the male subject was vomiting, severely dehydrated and had a headache.”
The rescue team brought along hot water bottles and sugary drinks so the couple could rehydrate and warm up. They were taken back down to a trailhead and checked out by emergency medical services. The rescue wrapped up at about 8:22 a.m.
AVSAR and the American Hiking Society urge people to carry ten essentials when they venture into the backcountry, including proper footwear, maps and compass.
“Ignorance kills,” AVSAR said on Facebook.