Published September 13, 2013
A pair of hikers made it down one of Colorado's highest peaks on their own Friday after being stranded by an ice storm for two days, the National Park Service said.
The Park Service had been trying to organize its latest effort to rescue the Maine women from 14,200-foot Longs Peak after bad weather defeated a helicopter rescue, said Patrick O'Driscoll, a Park Service spokesman. He said rangers in an all-terrain vehicle later traveled through floodwaters to shuttle them to safety.
"They are in fine condition. They were not injured," said Mark Pita, a ranger inside Rocky Mountain National Park.
The same storm system that blasted Colorado with rain caused the ice storm at higher elevations that pinned down Connie Yang, 32, and Suzanne Turell, 33. They were hunkered down inside a tent in whiteout conditions about 800 feet below the summit.
"The mountain was socked in, no visibility, 12 inches of rain, flash flooding all over the place," O'Driscoll said.
Employers and family members said the two set out a week ago on a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, with summer gear including a flyweight tent.
Before their phone battery died, the women used text messages to inform a sister of Yang's in New York City of their situation.
"We need help," Turell said in one of her last texts around 9 a.m. Thursday. "No injuries. Iced over. Risk of hypothermia. On south ridge."
They provided coordinates of their location off a trail.
An earlier text message read: "Can't move because of ice storm, don't know how long it will last. Been here for 1 day trying to wait it out."
The women, from York, Maine, work for New Hampshire-based outdoor gear manufacturer NEMO Equipment Inc. Turell is the company's director of product design. Yang is director of engineering.
"I knew they're smart and tough and had technical skills," David Turell, a brother of Suzanne Turell, said from his home in Durham, N.H. "The question was whether their gear was going to keep them dry and warm enough, for long enough."
Park rangers said they were taking the hikers from a trailhead in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Lake, Colo. -- the only way out of the park Friday.
Three roads on the park's east side remained impassable Friday because of mud slides, said Rick Frost, a spokesman for the Park Service's Intermountain Region in Denver.