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The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Climber dies from fall on Kit Carson Peak

On Wednesday October 13, 2021 a combined agency search team located the body of Madeline- Baharlou-Quivey in Class 5 terrain on Kit Carson Peak.

Saguache County Sheriff’s Office received a call October 11, 2021 at 20:18 for a climber who was off route and cliffed out below the standard route on Kit Carson Peak. The reporting party received a text message that the subject needed assistance from search and rescue. The RP stated the climber was experienced and had summited other 14ers and was well equipped with winter clothing, a bivy sack and a good supply of food and water. GPS coordinates were obtained from the subject by text to the RP and communicated to Saguache Sheriff Office Dispatch center.

At the time of the call, Saguache SAR personnel were at the dispatch center training dispatchers in computer mapping techniques. It was determined that the climber’s location was in Class 5 terrain and technical SAR personnel trained in winter alpine conditions would be required to reach the subject. The Colorado Search and Rescue Association was notified of the mission and mutual aid requests were made to surrounding SAR teams. Plans were made to deploy ground teams in the pre-dawn hours of October 12. Helicopter assets were coordinated through CSRA, and plans were made to have a Blackhawk helicopter with hoist capability available at dawn. An approaching winter storm to the rescue area provided a narrow window of time for rescue operations.

The Colorado National Guard deployed a Blackhawk helicopter to the search area just after dawn with rescue technicians from Alpine Rescue Team on board. An aerial search of the given GPS coordinates and immediate surrounding area was conducted. The aerial search was unable to locate the subject. The helicopter left the scene to refuel but was unable to return due to rapidly deteriorating weather at the search location.

Two ground teams had deployed to the area before dawn. Alamosa Volunteer SAR was able to reach the summit ridge of Challenger Point but was forced to turn back by very strong winds, blowing snow, limited visibility, and air temperatures below freezing. Chaffee SAR South climbed to the bottom of the Kirk Couloir to attempt to visually locate the subject from below and searched much of the upper Willow Creek basin in visibility conditions of less than 100 yards. Chaffee SAR – North deployed to the area and searched the Spanish Creek basin to the base of the southern slopes of Kit Carson Peak. Search efforts were unsuccessful in locating the subject. All teams left the field due to inclement winter weather in the search area.

On October 13, 2021 search efforts resumed at dawn with air assets from Colorado Air National Guard, Alpine Rescue and Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control, Cañon Helitac. Multiple SAR ground teams deployed to the search area. A Custer County SAR team was airlifted from Westcliffe to the Willow Creek Basin and attempted to reach the summit of Challenger Point, but was turned back by thigh deep, unconsolidated snow.  Teams from Saguache SAR, Alamosa Vol. SAR, Chaffee SAR – South, Chaffee SAR – North and Western Mountain Rescue were airlifted into the Spanish Creek Basin to attempt to reach the climber’s last known location and search the south slopes of Kit Carson Peak.

A combined AVSAR/Western Mountain Rescue Team visually located the subject at approximately 15:00 hours. Both CONG and Helitac air crews were able to confirm that the climber was deceased from an apparent fall.  The CONG Blackhawk approached for a hoist operation, but the subject’s proximity to a vertical wall made that maneuver unsafe. Western Mtn. Rescue climbed to within 100 vertical feet of the subject’s location, but there was not adequate time before nightfall to make the recovery. Recovery operations will resume as weather and rescuer safety permit.

Saguache County Search and Rescue and the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office offer our sincere condolences to Madeline’s family and friends. 

Thanks to all who are involved in this mission in extremely challenging conditions.

  • Saguache County Search and Rescue
  • Saguache County Sheriff’s Office and dispatch 
  • Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue
  • Alpine Rescue Team 
  • Chaffee County Search and Rescue – South 
  • Chaffee County Search and Rescue North 
  • Custer County SAR
  • Western Mountain Rescue Team
  • Colorado Search and Rescue Association – CSAR
  • Colorado National Guard
  • Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control – Cañon Helitac 
  • U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center
  • Colorado State Patrol – Alamosa Regional Communications Center

There are always lessons to be learned from each SAR mission for both our volunteers and the mountaineering public. Always have the 10 essentials in your pack, tell friends and family of the location you are hiking and your intended route, check weather forecasts for the area and remember that at elevation winter conditions can occur at all times during the year.

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