Hunters righted series of bad decisions by lost Pyramid Peak hiker
The Aspen Times
A Denver man lost for two days after climbing Pyramid Peak on Sunday made a series of wrong decisions, which were only reversed once he ran into two hunters who walked him out of the backcountry, sources said Wednesday.
“The help from the hunters has to be emphasized,” said Pitkin County Deputy Ryan Voss, who was incident commander during the search for Neil Brosseau, 66. “They ran into him in the backcountry and walked him out. They didn’t have to but they did.
Efforts to reach Brosseau and the hunters Wednesday were not successful. However, the son of one of the hunters posted on Mountain Rescue Aspen’s Facebook page that his father and a friend walked Brosseau six miles out of the backcountry and gave up the last day of their hunting trip to help him.
Brosseau was with the hunters about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday when he ran into an MRA team heading out of the field on the East Maroon Trail. The team had been part of the two-day search effort for Brosseau.
Chris Brosseau told The Times on Tuesday that he was descending Pyramid Peak with his uncle and his wife Sunday afternoon when they became separated. He said his uncle was about 300 feet above him on the saddle at about 13,000 feet that leads to the mountain’s summit ridge and he was yelling at him to follow them.
However, Neil Brosseau inexplicably turned around and began heading back up the trail toward Pyramid’s summit, Chris Brosseau said.
Voss, who interviewed Neil Brosseau, said the man didn’t hear his nephew yelling and had to guess the way down, then picked the wrong route.
“He got disoriented,” Voss said. “He never saw Chris.”
Neil Brosseau chose to descend a steep gully on the backside of Pyramid and soon realized he’d made a mistake, Voss said. However, Brosseau could not climb back up at that point and decided to slowly descend the route he was already on. That required sliding down on his rear end, which tore up his pants and scratched his body, Voss said.
He was dressed in pants, a T-shirt and a red sweatshirt and had a backpack with a rain jacket along with some water and sports bars to eat, he said. He had no light and no way to make a fire.
Sunday night, Neil Brosseau slept on a mountain ledge and wrapped himself in the clothing he had.
“He said his main concern was hydration,” Voss said, adding that he drank out of creeks and streams. “He had plenty of food with the Powerbars.”
On Monday, he continued to slowly descend the mountain. He told Voss he saw helicopters that day and tried to wave, but he’d lost his red sweatshirt by then and was wearing dark clothes so he couldn’t be seen.
When he reached the valley floor, he turned the wrong direction and began heading away from the route out of the backcountry, Voss said. He ended up sleeping under a tree that night wrapped in his rain jacket, while dealing with rain, sleet and cold.
“When the weather came, he would hunker down,” Voss said. “He tried to stay as warm as possible.”
The next day Brosseau woke up when the sun hit him and eventually ran into the hunters, who told him he was going the wrong way.
“He said, ‘Hey can I hike out with you guys?’” Voss said. “And they said, ‘OK.’”
When the MRA team ran into him, Brosseau was in good condition and later declined an ambulance ride to the hospital, Voss said.
“He was in good spirits,” he said. “He was kicking himself for the mistakes he made and was apologizing for the efforts we had put in looking for him.”
Voss and Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, both thanked the hunters for walking Brosseau out of the backcountry. They also warned hikers against separating from members of their hiking party.
“It cannot be stressed enough … the importance of staying with your climbing and hiking party,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday. “One of the most frequent contributors to backcountry rescues is voluntary separation.”
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Roaring Fork Schools volunteers who have already completed a comparable background check through an approved entity would be good to go.