Be Prepared When Heading to the Back Country

To better your chances of not having to meet your local search and rescue team in the field, be prepared to stay overnight, says Dan Gilchrist of Routt County Search and Rescue in Steamboat Springs. Also bring a cellphone and make sure it’s charged.

“It’s a lot different now with cellphones and with service reception getting better and better,” Gilchrist says. “All you have to do is call 911 and that gives us a location.” Following are a few tips to heed before heading out:

Backcountry Safety Tips
1. Stuff happens — be prepared
2. Always carry the 10 Essentials, even if you aren’t planning to be out for long
3. Know where you’re going
4. Don’t go alone
5. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back
6. Bring your cellphone and conserve its battery
7. If in trouble, call 911; then stay put and wait for rescue

The 10 Essentials
1. Navigation: topo map, compass, GPS/GPDS app
2. Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses/goggles, hat
3. Insulation: extra layers, rain protection, wool hat, gloves/mittens, buff, hand warmers
4. Illumination: flashlight, headlamp, extra batteries
5. Fire: lighter/waterproof matches, fire starter, saw
6. First aid: bandages, antiseptic, wipes, splint
7. Tools: knife, zip ties, duct tape, whistle, multi-tool, cellphone, avalanche gear
8. Hydration: water/filter/purifier, cup to melt snow
9. Nutrition: high energy snacks (jerky, trial mix, etc.)
10. Shelter: sleeping bag, tent/tarp/bivy/space blanket

Nearly 75 Years of Search and Rescue in Colorado

It was a climbing accident on Navajo Peak in December 1946 that spawned Colorado’s search and rescue program, with the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group becoming an official organization in 1947. It was the only team in the state until 1957 when Littleton’s Arapahoe Rescue Patrol was formed, followed by Evergreen’s Alpine Rescue Team in 1959.

With other unofficial rescue groups (such as the Quick Draw Gun Club) also pitching in, in 1961 the Colorado Rescue Association was formed to serve as an information center for coordinating rescues. Today’s Colorado Search and Rescue Board, which oversees the state’s 46 search and rescue teams, was officially formed in 1970 and in 2020 celebrates its 50th anniversary of helping those in need.