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One of THOSE Days
Sunday 3/18 started out a beautiful late winter day in the Front Range. For those who went indoors in the middle of the day they may have been surprised by 4:30. One look to the west and you could see the issue. The wind had come up, the temperature had dropped and an unforeseen Colorado snow storm was upon us. This is also when the first calls starting coming to our 24 Hour Hotline.
The storm had caught many people out and although the stuck parties weren't deep into the mountains, the conditions had changed so rapidly, if not prepared for such situations, the situations were quickly becoming life threatening. The day started with a call for assistance on the western slope. Although the reporting party eventually self recovered on this, we did assemble a team with members that happen to be close enough to the scene and willing to divert to assist. The weather was already a concern during that recovery.
The next call was one of 4 that would push our team and members and put all of our training into practice. A call for a stranded vehicle in the Idaho Springs area was the first our dispatchers handled. This recovery was managed by many of our dispatchers while they were in a meeting. It wasn't long before the storm hit the front range as well as the dispatchers. While driving home from the meeting, other dispatchers managed another call-out for the Black Hawk area. Similar situation, both trucks were stranded in deep snow with more coming down and temperatures dropping well below freezing.
As teams formed, usually within minutes, the traffic flow was only out of the mountains, except for our teams going in. We had dispatchers monitoring highway conditions and closures as well as weather changes as fast as they could update. The next two calls for rescue came within minutes of each other and our third and fourth teams were formed. These were in the Missouri Lakes area and Alice region. A team of 3 dispatchers at one time, and at least 6 over all, covered multiple teams in declining conditions.
This is where the training stepped in and took over. Our dispatchers seamlessly covered one another while monitoring 4 simultaneous deployments, weather, updating the relevant Sheriff Departments and keep the reporting parties updated on the status of each rescue team as they worked their way into the back country. With on-line and ham radio communications the teams deployed close to one another were able to keep in touch and act as back-up, if needed. Even though we had 13 vehicles in the field at once, we also had 7 people who volunteered to be on stand-by if back up assistance was needed. Even with 20 vehicles in stand-by or deployed, this was far from our largest deployment in history.
One of the most important aspects of training is knowing when we only recovery personnel and leave the vehicle till later. Two of these missions made that call. One of the teams was within sight of the reporting party vehicles but the ice has set in and snow chains were not even enough. The teams made the right call and got the reporting parties off the mountain.
All teams made it home on roads where you could not see the lane lines and most came home in 4wd the entire way. The last of the recovery team members arrived home after 1AM. The two vehicles that were left over night were recovered the next day by a single team. After they were done we were also asked to handle another recovery, requested by Clear Creek County Sheriff office. That one team deployed on 3/19, executed three recoveries in one day. Amazingly, this only ties a record. The last 24 hours saw 8 rescue missions by 6 teams. That WAS record.
Thank you to our amazing team of dispatchers and recovery team members; all volunteers from top to bottom. Thank you to the people who call for our assistance for their trust and their donations. The organization runs almost exclusively on donations. And thank you to the 911 dispatchers and first responders who worked with us as we all dealt with an 'all hands on deck' weather condition in the Colorado Mountains.
At Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery we aim to provide back country assistance to our community and first responders whenever our personnel, vehicles and training are well suited to the mission. 'We Recover the Rockies'