As I was driving home the other day, traffic suddenly came to a stand still, as lights flashed ahead. I then caught sight of people walking down the road donned in blue shirts and hard hats, the good volunteers of Rocky Mountain Rescue (RMRG) were hard at work yet again.
Driving up Boulder Canyon, it’s hard to keep your eyses on the road as you climb the 3000 feet between Boulder and Nederland. Massive, jagged granite walls tower above gurgling Boulder Creek and the winding road alongside it. Those same granite walls make the Flatirons one of the most popular areas for rock climbing in the country. But as we found out early on, where they are lots of climbers, they are also frequently climbing accidents.
Shortly after we moved to Nederland, a friend of ours came to visit for the weekend and we met Bryon for dinner in Boulder. As we drove home, the road was blockaded with police cars, which informed us the road was closed due to a climbing accident and we needed to take a detour. At the time, we had only lived here for three weeks, so didn’t even know where the detour was taking us or how we were going to get home. After following other drivers who did seem to know where they were going, we finally figured it out and got home about 30 minutes later than normal.
Since then we have become quite familiar with all the other back roads, as road closures in the Canyon abound both winter and summer. We’ve learned all the dirt roads on either side of the canyon and become quite familiar with the many routes that can get you between Boulder and Nederland throughout the year. So, when the road was closed on a perfectly nice, sunny day the other day, I sighed and thought, “Hmmm, another climbing accident.” They say patience is a virtue, and that is particularly true driving the canyon as part of my daily commute. That was confirmed when I saw the folks from Rocky Mountain Rescue.
Rocky Mountain Rescue is an all volunteer group of people highly trained in mountain rescue work. They are Boulder County’s primary rescue agency and respond to around 130 calls per year. This gives you some idea of how active the good people who recreate in the county area. Boulder County has a range of terrain ranging from the High Peaks of more than 14,000 feet (Longs Peak), down to the plains. The county is home to national parks (Rocky Mountain), state parks, Open Space, and Wilderness areas (Indian Peaks). Because of its incredible scenery and mountains, people are very active year-round backcountry skiing, hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking and rocky climbing. RMRG also assists with natural disasters like the flood of September, 2013 and snow storms.
There’s nothing scarier than being involved in some sort of wilderness accident or incident. I could pretend that I’m smarter than that, but I know that I’ve had my fair share of situations that I could have been lost or in trouble, but for good fortune. Our first winter here in Colorado, Bryon and went ski touring one afternoon, and a winter storm came in and quickly turned the conditions into a white out. I became panicked, not being able to see our tracks or figure out which way to go to get back to our car. Fortunately, for us, a car drove by on the road, and through the opening in the trees, we saw the tail lights. We could have easily been one of those people missing the RMRG assists with finding. Bryon and I joked about it later — how ironic that would have been and how stupid we would have looked to have a Park Ranger and meteorologist get lost during a snow storm. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone, no matter how well prepared you are.
I love all of the outdoor activities available to me here in this great state, but also realize the fun to be had in the great outdoors comes with a risk. Though I believe it’s important for all of us to be responsible by being prepared, I’m so grateful to the people of RMRG who are willing to put their lives on the line to assist those of us who find ourselves in a precarious and dangerous situation. Thanks to their dedication and service, many lives have been saved during the last 70 years.