Saturday, July 26, 2014

Man rescued with life-threatening injuries in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yesterday afternoon Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were contacted via cell phone by a 31-year-old man who indicated he had fallen an unknown distance while glissading down Gabletop Mountain, which is above Loomis Lake. He reported numerous injuries.

The US Forest Service Northern Colorado helicopter used earlier in the day for the body recovery from Longs Peak was utilized for aerial reconnaissance. Using cell phone GPS coordinates, rangers were able to determine his general location below Gabletop Mountain and aerial surveillance confirmed his exact location. The photo below shows the spot where the man was initially found:

The climber was located in a remote high alpine environment in a steep cirque above Loomis Lake at approximately 11,300 feet. Loomis Lake is located southwest of Spruce Lake. Before night fall a team of four park rangers were flown to Loomis Lake. Equipment was also flown into the area. Due to the terrain and severe thunderstorms, the man was forced to bivouac overnight in the backcountry.

As rangers worked to reach the man they were able to maintain contact with him via cellphone, and asked if he could work his way down across a rock band and towards a snow field that the rangers were heading towards. Just after midnight rangers finally reached the man.

Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman, Kyle Patterson, said that the climber was "ambulatory but had life-threatening injuries".

This morning rangers rescued the man by lowering him 500 feet with ropes, and then assisted him an additional 700 feet down steep mountainous terrain to Loomis Lake. A paramedic on the park's rescue team provided advanced life support throughout the incident. At approximately 8:30 a.m. this morning the climber was flown to Upper Beaver Meadows Road where he was then taken by Flight for Life to St. Anthony's Hospital in Estes Park for further treatment.


Fatality On Longs Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park is reporting that park rangers were contacted by a person climbing the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak yesterday morning, July 25th, notifying them that he and a group he was climbing with saw a body below The Ledges of the Keyhole Route. Rangers reached the body at 10:15 a.m. and confirmed that a male was deceased.

The incident is under investigation, no foul play is suspected. The US Forest Service Northern Colorado helicopter assisted with recovery efforts. His body was flown to the helipad at Upper Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park and was transferred to the Boulder County Coroner's Office. The name, age and hometown of the deceased male will be released after identification has been made and next of kin have been notified. No further information is available at this time.

This was second fatality on Longs this year.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Outdoor Recreation Participation Report: Camping and Backpacking Continues to Decline

The Outdoor Foundation is reporting that a record number of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2013, with nearly 50% of all Americans ages six and older taking part in at least one of the 43 outdoor activities, according to the latest Outdoor Recreation Participation Report. That percentage equates to 142.6 million American outdoor participants. Although the number of participants rose, the percentage of participants fell slightly from 49.4% in 2012 to 49.2% in 2013, due to population increase.

Compared to 2012, participation in outdoor activities increased or remained flat among youth and young adults - signaling a positive trend in America's inactivity crisis. The participation rate among children ages six to 12 rose one percentage point to 64%. Participation among young adults ages 18 to 24 also rose one point to 58%, while hard-to-reach adolescents, ages 13 to 17, remained flat at 60%.

Below are a few stats of interest:

* Participation in day hiking remained relatively flat again for the second year in a row. However, the latest figures don't reflect the strong growth in the outdoor pursuit in recent years. Compared to 2006 (the first year of the study), hiking is up 15.1%. Compared to 2010, participation in hiking has increased by 5.8%.

* Though backpacking has seen an increase in the number of participants over each of the last 2 years, the average number of outings per backpacker has dropped off sharply. As a result, backpacking has dropped out of the top 5 favorite outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on the frequency of activity.

* Camping (within a 1/4 mile of a vehicle or home) continues to decline: down 11% when compared to 2011, and down almost 18% since 2006.

* Participation in adventure racing and triathlons saw the largest increases over the past three years. Adventure racing increased by 28%, while off-road triathlons increased by 25% and road triathlons increased by 10%.

In 2013, the top 5 most popular outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on participation rates were:

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running - 16.2% of adults
2. Fishing - 14.8% of adults
3. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) - 13.1% of adults
4. Hiking - 11.4% of adults
5. Camping (Car, Backyard and RV) - 10.6% of adults

The top 5 favorite outdoor activities for adults (ages 25+), based on frequency of activity were:

1. Running, Jogging and Trail Running - 81.4 average outings per runner
2. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) - 51.7 average outings per cyclist
3. Birdwatching - 37.7 average outings per birdwatcher
4. Wildlife Viewing - 25.2 average outings per viewer
5. Hunting - 24.2 average outings per hunter

The report is based on online and household surveys of more than 19,000 Americans ages six and older, and covers 43 different outdoor activities, making it the largest survey of its kind. To download a complete copy of the 2014 Outdoor Recreation Topline Participation Report, visit The Outdoor Foundation website.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Old Fall River Road to Close to All Uses for Flood Damage Repairs

On Monday, July 28, Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park will close to all uses including pedestrians and hikers, as major repair work begins on the road and the Alluvial Fan bridge. Old Fall River Road received significant damages during the September 2013 flood. The road has been closed since last September to vehicles and bicycles, but pedestrians and hikers have been allowed on the road. All other roads in Rocky Mountain National Park are open.

The closure area on Old Fall River Road will extend from the road west of the Lawn Lake Trailhead parking area to the Alpine Visitor Center. This closure includes the Alluvial Fan, and the east and west Alluvial Fan parking areas. The closure extends 200 feet from the center line to both sides of the road corridor. This closure does not include the Fall River waterway and bank. Areas affected by this closure may be adjusted as construction work proceeds.

Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920. Due to the winding, narrow nature of the road, the scenic 9.4-mile route is one-way only and normally opens from the fourth of July to early October. It follows the steep slope of Mount Chapin's south face.

Repair work from flood damages has been completed in many areas of the park. Work is ongoing on some backcountry bridges and trails. For more detailed information and updates about flood impacts in Rocky Mountain National Park please visit the park's website or call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Best Day in the Mountains - Ever!

A couple of weeks ago Kathy and I drove over to the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park to do the hike to Cascade Falls. After seeing the incredibly beautiful and roaring falls we began the drive back over to Estes Park. As we approached Milner Pass we began noticing a few clouds building towards the west. However, once we made the turn at Medicine Bow Curve, just below the Alpine Visitor Center, we saw some of the most amazing skies I've ever seen in the Rockies. Brilliant blue skies were set against billowing white clouds and ferocious looking storm clouds. In combination with quite a bit of lingering snow in the mountains, it made for one of the most spectacular scenes I've ever witnessed. At Medicine Bow Curve we saw what appears to have been a "wall cloud", though I'm not sure if that's technically what it was:

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below,
he saw everything as far as you can see.
And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high, I've seen it raining fire in the sky.
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply.
Rocky Mountain high, Colorado. Rocky Mountain high.
And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high, I've seen it raining fire in the sky.
I know he'd be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly,
Rocky Mountain high, the Colorado Rocky Mountain high.
I took a couple dozen photos as we drove along Trail Ridge Road that afternoon, but had to delete several due to them being out of focus. With gusts in the 30-40 MPH range it was a little hard keeping the camera steady.

At one point, though there were clear skies above, we began to get pelted by snow flakes, blown for who knows how many miles.

Just below Ute Crossing we saw this young bull elk resting just off to the side of the road:

As we drove along the highest portions of Trail Ridge Road John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" blasted through our speakers, which provided the perfect backdrop to match our mood as we witnessed the awesome beauty that unfolded through our window shield. I'm quite certain that we were the very first visitors to have ever played this song while driving through Rocky Mountain National Park!


Road Improvements to Close Byers Peak Trailhead This Week

The U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District is planning improvements to the popular Byers Peak Trailhead. Located in the Fraser Experimental Forest, this trailhead accesses a 4-mile long bike/hike to the summit of Byers Peak.

In recent years, the trailhead parking area has deteriorated. Beginning this week, Forest Service crews will replace a damaged culvert just below the parking area and address potholes. As a result, the trailhead will be closed July 23rd through July 25rd.

Hikers wishing to climb Byers Peak during that time may access it from the Lake Evelyn Trailhead. As Crooked Creek Road (FSR 139) may also be closed to through traffic on and off this week, plan on accessing the west trailhead from Parshall.

Similar bike/hike/summit opportunities are available in the Fraser Experimental Forest to St. Louis Peak and Mt. Nystrom, however both roads have experienced significant damage between the parking area and the hiking portion of the trail. Be prepared to carry bikes across major washouts in the road.

In previous years, Fool Creek and St. Louis Creek roads opened once or twice a year to allow vehicular access to the hiking portion of the trailhead. Because there is no parking or turnaround below the washouts, gates will not open to motor vehicle access in 2014. Mangers of the Fraser Experimental Forest and Sulphur Ranger District are discussing options for addressing maintenance issues on these roads into the future.

For the latest information on the status and condition of Sulphur Ranger District roads, call 970-887-4100


Monday, July 21, 2014

Man convicted of operating illegal hiking guide service in Grand Canyon

Brazen? Or just brazenly stupid?

The NPS Morning Report is reporting that on October 19, 2013, rangers in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park became suspicious of the large number of hikers attempting to hike from the North Rim to the South Rim in a single day (known as a “Rim to Rim” hike). The hikers claimed to be hiking only with a small number of friends and not as part of a large group, but many appeared to be avoiding contact with rangers and they all described similar travel arrangements.

Subsequent investigations revealed that Scott Beck of Phoenix, Arizona, had chartered five buses to transport nearly 300 people to Grand Canyon National Park to hike across the canyon. Beck advertised the hike as the “23rd Annual” trip of a similar nature and charged each participant a set fee. Investigations also revealed that he had specifically instructed each hiker, both verbally and in a written itinerary, to tell rangers that they were “not with a group of 300,” that they were with a small group and had been transported by car or van.

The large number of hikers in the canyon that day caused impacts to vegetation and created long lines at the Phantom Ranch canteen and restroom facilities. The Phantom wastewater treatment operator reported that the sewage treatment plant was operating at capacity. Rangers took complaints from hikers who complained about congestion on the trails. Several minor medicals and search and rescue operations were also attributed to Beck’s group.

During interviews, Beck claimed that his trip was “organized” but not commercial, and that he had not profited. In January 2013, rangers served a search warrant on an online event registration website that Beck had used to solicit trip participants and collect fees. The evidence gathered from the search warrant was used to develop probable cause to charge Beck with engaging in an illegal business operation (36 CFR 5.3) and making false statements (18 USC 1001(a)(2)). Rangers estimated that Beck’s gross income for this event was over $47,000, and he profited by approximately $9,500.

On June 10th, Beck was convicted on one count of engaging in business operations without obtaining a permit in violation of 36 CFR 5.3. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he was sentenced to a year of probation, during which time he is banned from Grand Canyon National Park and from conducting or advertising for any tours or guided trips on national park or national forest lands. He was also fined $500 and ordered to serve 50 hours of community service.

Beck has since formally notified all trip participants that he will no longer be conducting his annual trip, and has pledged to donate $2,000 to Grand Canyon National Park.

The investigation was led by rangers and conducted with the assistance of Investigative Services Branch special agents.