Flown to St. Mary’s for hypothermia, frostbite
By Katherine Nettles
A local man was rescued from an area near the summer cabins trail off Cement Creek Road on Christmas Day and airlifted to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction for hypothermia and frostbite. According to the Mt. Crested Butte police department, the report to Gunnison County dispatch came in at 2:09 p.m. that a man had fallen down the trail, was hypothermic, and had his shoes and socks off of his feet.
The reporting party was a female who was out walking on a trail near the summer cabins when she discovered the victim. The woman waited with him until emergency crews arrived.
Crested Butte fire chief Rob Weisbaum made the initial contact and participated in the rescue. The victim, Bill Montgomery, is a resident of Almont and is in his early 60s. He was hiking solo, and was found along the single track about three quarters of a mile down the summer cabin trail.
The location where he was found was described as “up the road a short way, [on a] trail off to the right at the first cabin [on] the right,” said Marjorie Trautman, Mt. Crested Butte police department records and administrative assistant.
Apparent and severe frostbite to the victim’s feet was observed, and a team of four Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel and four Crested Butte Mountain Rescue members arrived within an hour, according to Weisbaum, who estimated that the man had been there for four to six hours. A snowmobile and rescue toboggan were needed to reach and extract him from the man’s location. Weisbaum said that since rescuers could see the man had frostbite, which requires advanced medical treatment, “We did not try to address that, and worked on getting his core temperature up.”
“Our officer further reported the man was severely disoriented initially and began to realize his situation as he was being treated,” likely due to the EMTs warming him up, said Trautman.
The rescue team got the patient to an ambulance and he was transported by ambulance to the Buckhorn landing zone and airlifted by Careflight to St. Mary’s Medical Center for treatment. His vital signs were reported to be stable when the helicopter lifted off.
Montgomery described his recollection of the incident by telephone from St. Mary’s hospital, where he is awaiting a likely amputation of both feet and possibly his lower legs. He was very familiar with the area and was traveling to a site where he had buried his dogs previously. “That’s the only reason I was continuing on like that, on an obscure trail in adverse conditions,” he said. “My dogs are my life.”
“I was post-holing in deep, deep snow, and my Sorels started filling with snow. So I sat down on a log to take my boots off,” he said. Unfortunately, after he had removed his boots to shake the snow out, he “passed out” unexpectedly. He estimates he was unconscious for approximately an hour, due to a medical condition. “Then I woke up and my feet were pretty much frozen, like wooden blocks,” he said.
At this point he tried to get his feet back in his boots, but struggled. He removed his socks, he said, in an effort to more easily get his feet in the boots. And then he was in and out of consciousness again.
Montgomery is hoping to make contact with the woman who found him, and to thank her and her three dogs. “I would like to say thank you, and I apologize for being hypothermically belligerent,” he said.
As he faces the amputation procedure sometime next week, Montgomery is also focusing on his recovery and finding ways to adapt to his prognosis. He looks forward to what he might be able to do through the Adaptive Sports Center. “I’ve been around here a long time, and I’m not going to let anything stop me,” he said.