A 60-year-old man required a helicopter rescue Thursday after falling and injuring his head on a hike in the Weminuche Wilderness.
La Plata County Search and Rescue President Ron Corkish said the man fell around 5 p.m. Wednesday in an area known as Chicago Basin, which is accessed by the Needle Creek Trail.
The Needle Creek Trail is a popular hiking trail, but it is in a remote part of the Weminuche Wilderness. The trail is most commonly accessed by hiking 10 miles from the Purgatory Flats trailhead or getting off at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s stop at Needleton.
Corkish said it was too late in the day to get the man out of the area, and no one in the vicinity had an emergency beacon.
“I’m surprised someone didn’t have one,” he said. “We get kind of spoiled by people having those devices, and when they don’t, it takes a long time for extraction.”
Fortunately, two medical professionals were also recreating in the area and cared for the man overnight. Corkish said the man spent the night in and out of consciousness.
Two other hikers walked out of Chicago Basin on Wednesday evening to wait for the D&SNG the following morning.
The hikers were able to flag down a pop car, which radioed search and rescue personnel around 8:20 a.m. Thursday.
Corkish said crews were ready to go into the field, but emergency responders decided the better option was to fly the injured man out with a Flight for Life helicopter.
Search and Rescue obtained permission from the U.S. Forest Service to land a helicopter in the wilderness area. The man was taken out around 9:40 a.m., Corkish said.
The injured man was alert, but disoriented. Corkish said he did not believe the man’s injuries were life-threatening.
“He’d been through a lot,” he said.
Corkish did not have the man’s name or where he was from immediately available Thursday afternoon.