September 18, 2013

Uncertain of rescue, Mainers saw perilous descent as only hope

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Connie Yang, left, and Suzanne Turell are shown in Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada, where the pair hiked last fall.

click image to enlarge

Longs Peak, the tallest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Their cellphone had shut down in the cold a day earlier, but they warmed the battery to the point where it could be turned on. They sent their distress call by text. The error message appeared, then disappeared before the phone died for good.

The texts, however, were received by Yang's sister in New York, who notified park officials. But conditions were too dangerous for a rescue, the officials said.

At 1 p.m. Thursday, the weather on Longs Peak cleared slightly, with some of the snow and ice melting. Yang and Turell worried about leaving in case a rescue effort was under way, but they had no way to know.

They picked their way down a boulder-strewn ravine that had become a muddy river with rain that had caused historic flooding in Colorado. They headed for a ranger station that would have an emergency telephone.

After several hours, they made it off the mountain and made camp. On Friday, they bushwhacked in cold rain to the station, and park rangers used ATVs to get them to safety.

Yang, 32, and Turell, 33, were returning Tuesday from the West Coast, where they went for business, and declined a request for an interview, said Kate Ketschek, a spokeswoman for NEMO Equipment.

But they said in their statement that the ordeal was a powerful learning experience.

"We hope that what we faced will not discourage others from heading to the mountains, but remind everyone of the importance of planning carefully, bringing the right equipment, and making careful choices," they said.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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