Helitrax director Joe Shults, however, stopped short of calling it conservative. Located in San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests. Luckily he is not buried, so his partner, 45-year-old Ophir resident Nathan Schroepfer, who’d watched the slide start less than a foot below his snowboard, descends and finds him relatively quickly. So they’re the ones who could have it and not know it.”, Jamie was similarly concerned: “The virus was definitely on my mind when I got home. Skier 1 was buried face down, head downhill. Skier 2 asked Skier 1 where he was and what was going on, and he gave appropriate answers. Skier 1 yelled “hey, hey” but they were engulfed in the slide before his second "hey". I have to admit it was a pretty cool drive and our little Subaru was amazingly tough. Four days prior to Tuesday’s accident—which occurred at a time of “moderate” danger, or level 2 on a scale of 1 to 5—someone triggered a deep slab more than a football field wide in a dangerous path called Magnolia. Imogene Pass has an elevation of about 13,000 feet. There was no way we could turn around. He said goodbye, donned an N95 mask, gown, gloves, and faceshield and went back to work. Rector, meanwhile, meets three dozen SAR members in Ophir. “It would be much simpler to get to the other side by taking the 11 mile pass instead of going all the way back around the mountain. “So he’s running this risk of picking up the virus from another patient or another healthcare provider there. People should be able to get outside still.”. Text. The two skiers ascended the debris pile along the east side of the avalanche path. We don’t have any staff to do that. About 10 minutes before the avalanche Skier 1 noted an increase in the wind speed and a change in the wind direction. He had to test out the new Subaru and it’s four wheel drive. And you’ll get to pass through some old mining ghost towns,” I vividly remember him saying. But today is his day off—a family day. When we reached Savage Basin and passed through Tomboy Townsite – the old mining town that sold me on the drive in the first place – I got the history lesson I had come for. “The area’s had full burials, people getting banged up, lost gear, people having to run for their lives from an avalanche coming down at them,” says Matt Steen, a local forecaster and Helitrax’s snow-safety director. Mar 28, 2020 . Backcountry skiers on Ophir Pass in Colorado (Photo: Kennan Harvey/Cavan) Devon O'Neil. Their goal was a large stand of trees around 11,400 feet on the east side of the bowl. High above the canyon floor, a local man in his thirties has come to rest halfway down a run called Sugar Shack, a steep, northwest-facing chute through sparse trees where avalanches have buried people before and which requires about a 90-minute climb from Ophir. He posted the link on Instagram. Rather sad if you think about it. Sheriff Bill Masters, who has been the top cop in Telluride for 40 years, is quoted in a Tuesday evening news release admonishing the backcountry community: “People need to use their friggin’ heads.” Still, he stopped short of saying the backcountry should be closed to avoid another rescue. Though the victim remains conscious and coherent, the urgency is clear to everyone present. As for future rescue calls, he adds, “We’re going to respond until I’m ordered not to.”. I started feeling guilty standing around watching all the search and rescue members who’d responded.”. District 2. I’m not saying that’s the best approach. The force ripped his bindings out of his snowboard, leaving them strapped to his feet as pain coursed through him like an electric current. That became very clear to me as The Husband came to a sharp switch back (aka turn in the road) about a mile into the drive and said, “Perhaps we should turn around. Nevertheless, later on Wednesday, San Miguel County posted no-parking signs on Ophir Road and sent out a text to residents that read, in part, “PLEASE DO YOUR PART AND DO NOT PROCEED INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY.” Masters says that the message still hinges on public cooperation. Driving from Telluride to Ouray over Imogene Pass, Wow, I’ve got chills reading that post! Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. Thank you. He gets in touch with the reporting party and asks if the victim can get out on their own. Skier 2 took out her shovel and dug herself out. Pretty crazy… Have you hiked, biked or driven up Imogene Pass? Glad you made it–it definitely makes for an interesting story , Thanks! I think that would be a mistake. During the course of our weekend on the trails we had the opportunity to take in the beauty of Clear Lake, travel along Ophir Pass, and enjoy a thrilling excursion along Black Bear Pass. He was unconscious, not breathing, had a gray/blue pigmented skin tone, and had a carotid pulse. “I figured if he had the virus, we’d get it any other number of ways anyway,” Jamie says of the decision to proceed without rubber gloves. Unlicensed vehicles are allowed on Ophir Pass Road east of the town of Ophir; however, you cannot ride through town. A snowboarder was seriously injured in an avalanche in East Waterfall Canyon near the town of Ophir on March 24. Glad you, the husband and the car made it to the other side! The video at the end is also a nice touch – shows us what brave little warriors you guys were . The Husband convinced me that taking a “short pass”, which was only 11 miles would save us SOOO much time and allow us to be in Ouray longer. Looking back, it’s hard to justify why I was even out there. This site contains affiliate links. She cut his backpack off in preparation for CPR. Skier 2 sustained a mild neck injury from the event. As the first responders slowly slide the victim downslope, civilian and county rescuers converge on the scene. Sitting in the hostel in Telluride, CO The Husband (really he was The Boyfriend at that time) and I were mapping out our route from Telluride to Ouray. Hehir, Allen, and Sloan arrive from Ophir and immediately dig out a platform where they transition the victim to Allen’s sled. Since Skier 1 had been uphill, she moved uphill and lost the signal. The accident is exactly what everyone has feared since the coronavirus pandemic began. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. I later learned if stock SUVs wanted to attempt this drive they need to have low-range gearing, four wheel drive, high clearance and skid plates. No one, according to the rescuers interviewed for this story, asks the patient if he has been sick recently. The avalanche initiated naturally, was medium-sized relative to the path, and large enough to bury, injure or kill a person (SS-N-R3D2-I). They followed their skin track back towards US 550. I’m Elaine Schoch, the editor and founder of Carpe Travel. Back at the accident scene, everyone mills around talking. Your email address will not be published. They used the debris as a "safe route" and discussed how traveling on the debris made them feel comfortable, thinking a majority of the overhead hazard was gone. Wow! The wet slide was triggered at 12,700 feet on an east-southeast aspect around 4pm and ran 1,900 … Hehir assembles a first-aid kit based on the preliminary details relayed to him by Sonja, while Allen straps a foldable sled to his back. “It was a holy-shit moment when I realized the number of people, not only search-and-rescue but the bystanders and Ophirites, who were interacting closely, touching each other,” Schroepfer says. Elaine Schoch March 05, 2018 Reply. Ophir History Gold was discovered in 1875 and the town of Ophir was established near these new discoveries. Still, he recognizes the broader danger in what happened. “I think the most common sociological thing that most people are going through right now is distraction, just kind of being in this limbo land where every day feels like a weekend,” he says. She got a signal of 44 meters as soon as she turned her beacon into search mode. The pass is Imogene Pass. “Half the town of Telluride and half the town of Ophir was out skiing those hills the day of the accident,” Jamie told me. “It’s getting harder to breathe,” the victim says. What The Husband thought would take “maybe an hour”, took more than four hours. “What’s wrong?” Hehir shouts. Summer monsoons can cause rocks and debris to come down on the roads. As the rescuers move the victim toward a makeshift landing zone, he begins to fade. Rector promptly sends out a call to nearly 60 volunteer SAR members, requesting a full response. Having recently moved to Colorado from Texas, where most people don’t have four wheel drives we thought all four wheel drive vehicles were created equal. This might just be scariest road I’ve ever seen! Thanks for your support, Cheers! We were in a 1996 Jeep Cherokee and had crossed over Ophir Pass between U.S. Highway 550 north of Silverton, CO. to the old mining town of Ophir. “To say we’re going to enforce that is incredible. San Miguel County, home to five small towns including Telluride and Ophir, had made national headlines just days earlier for committing to test every one of its 8,000 residents in an attempt to isolate the virus and prevent it from spreading through their remote community. They’re not. I think I would have had a panic attack, lol! Around the same time, Todd Rector, a search-and-rescue specialist with the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, receives a call from his dispatch center alerting him of the accident. =), Wow! The guide checks for hang fire next to the gaping avalanche crown, while another skier posts up at the top of the run to make sure no one else descends on top of the responding party. But rather the five different sets of hikers and two mountain bikers we passed who looked at us like we were insane. It facets and gets a lot of wind and sun; it’s just a weird snowpack.”, Steen was so concerned by the recent spate of close calls that he set up morning Zoom meetings, open to the public, to talk through the avalanche problems that seemed to be catching people again and again. But people are guessing.”. They were on a northwest-facing, 25-27 degree slope. When we read about Imogene Pass in our trusty little Colorado guide book we were told the pass is accessible by four wheel drive vehicles. It is no secret that thousands in Colorado have been flaunting those warnings, including plenty of skiers and snowboarders in the San Juan Range. Skier 2 continued to excavate Skier 1, working to remove the snow around his chest. Oh my goodness! District 1. Well that did it for The Husband. He always is and I was interested in seeing the old mining town… That was just the beginning of the ride from hell. I wasn’t into hard. “Everyone involved, absolutely, saved this guy’s life,” Hehir said. Just then Hehir was interrupted. The victim tells Hehir that he’s having a hard time breathing, prompting Hehir to lean in and and place a stethoscope on the victim’s chest. More…, © 2011-2020 Elaine Schoch/Carpe Travel. Visibility decreased to around 500 feet. Once she picked the signal up again, she quickly followed it to a lowest reading of 2.7 meters. He calls one in Nucla, an hour and 15 minutes away, and the pilot says he’ll leave immediately. Watch for signs. The situation sounds dire: potentially two broken femurs and a fractured pelvis. It’s also unpaved and does not have the safety rails most mountain passes that cars drive on have. My visions of soaking in the hot springs had been left on the summit. We made it that far so we decided to just keep going. They include a local mountain guide as well as an EMT. The town never grew to the size of some of its famous neighboring communities, but mining sustained a population in the hundreds for several decades. Word spread through the valley each time a local narrowly escaped.