Chalk one up to emergency preparedness
Disaster was averted last week when a local 25-year-old man was found walking toward the winter trailhead after spending a night out on Kebler Pass.
According to an open report from the Mt. Crested Butte Police Department, Jeremy Kipp was snowmobiling with a group on January 8 in the Ruby Ridge area. When the group made the decision to climb the ridge, Kipp opted to wait at the bottom, but was later unable to reconnect with the group.
When the group returned to the trailhead at about 4 p.m. and realized Kipp was missing, they alerted police and Crested Butte Search and Rescue to the situation. Private volunteers began to search the area at this time, but the search was called off a few hours later due to darkness and a heavy snow storm. Crested Butte Search and Rescue then made plans to begin a formal search the next morning at 7:30.
“Anytime we have somebody missing it’s about how urgent everything is,” said Crested Butte Search and Rescue Public Information officer Nicholas Kempin. “We ask, do they have a medical condition, gear, the ability to spend the night out? In this case, Kipp had been missing since about 2 p.m. that day and his friends had already searched the obvious places. By the time we got the call and got out it was a very bad snowstorm and we made the call to call off the search for the night and get started very early the next day.”
The next morning, around 10 a.m. Kipp was found walking on Kebler Pass Road. After his snowmobile had become stuck, and his attempts to free it failed, Kipp had decided to dig in and had spent the night in the area around the Dyke Trail.
“At about 2:30, I realized I was separated from my group, and I started making my way around the ridge,” said Kipp. “I was going through these small ravines and twice got stuck. The first time I was able to dig myself out after a few hours, but the second time, the sled slipped then wouldn’t start. At around 4:30 I started walking out, but with the snow it was more like army crawling. Eventually I got cliffed out, and made the decision that I would be spending the night up against the cliff band.”
According to Randy Felix, the search and rescue team leader for the mission, Kipp was able to build a fire, had some emergency survival gear and avalanche gear on hand, and survived the nighttime temperatures, which dropped close to zero.
“The take home message is be prepared,” said Felix. “Even though you may be just out in the Irwin area, you’re still out in the backcountry. If things don’t go as planned you could be spending the night out susceptible to the elements.”
About ten search and rescue volunteers took part in the mission. Additionally a group of Kipp’s friends, and several members of the Crested Butte and Irwin community helped in the search.
“My friends were out there taking shifts searching until about midnight, then they started again very early the next morning. I can’t thank them and everyone else enough.” said Kipp. “I was able to keep my spirits high, and kept thinking that eventually things would work out.”
Felix said that even though Kipp was able to hear the sound of snowmobiles during the night, he did the right thing by staying put until daylight, at which point he was able to make his way to the road.
“The search was a coordinated effort with lots of local involvement and support from Irwin,” said Felix. “There was a real sense of community out there, and fortunately it was a straightforward mission with a positive outcome.”
Kipp said that after the event he was thirsty and tired but otherwise in good shape.