SAGUACHE COUNTY, Colo. - The Colorado National Guard was called to assist in the rescue of an injured hiker July 7, 2009 in the Sangre De Cristo mountain range in south central Colorado.

Two hikers had spotted a solo male hiker who had fallen about 1,500 feet down a slope and came to rest at approximately 12,600 feet on a 75-degree incline on the side of Challenger Point. The hikers then notified authorities.

Seven Colorado Army National Guard Citizen Soldiers assigned to the Army Aviation Support Facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., flew a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to the scene to conduct the rescue. The Soldiers flew in complete darkness using night vision goggles.

"The night vision goggles gave us the ability to see as if it were day," said Pilot Chief Warrant Officer-4 Curtis Hathcock.

The mission was considered high risk due to the necessity for a hoist on the steep and rugged slope at high elevation. "We had approximately 15 to 20 feet of clearance between our rotors and the side of the mountain while hovering," said Sgt. 1st Class Greg Riss.

Sgt. Josh Moyer, medic, was hoisted down to assist the injured hiker.

"When I saw and heard that helicopter, that was a wonderful feeling because from then on I knew that we were going to be ok," said Roy Knoedler, Hiker and Boulder, Colo. resident.

"It took an hour and a half to prepare the patient on the steep slope ... if the other two hikers hadn't been there to help Sgt. Moyer, the patient could have slid down another 1,000 feet," Hathcock said.

Once the hiker and medic were hoisted into the aircraft, the hiker was safely transported to Cottonwood, Colo., and transferred to a civilian Flight-for-Life bound for Pueblo, Colo., at about 3:30 a.m.

"From where I was on the mountainside, it was an incredible operation. They had to have skills to pull that off," stated Knoedler.

The CH-47 was chosen for this mission due to its ability to hover and maintain power during hoist operations at high altitudes above 12,000 feet.

"Colorado Army National Guard helicopters can support life or limb Search and Rescue operations in conjunction with Civilian Emergency Rescue Service crews when the
terrain or altitude makes landing a civilian EMS aircraft questionable," said State Army Aviation Officer Col. Joel Best. "Our aircraft are equipped with internal and external rescue hoists and have superior altitude capability which improves safety. Once an external hoist rescue is completed, our aircraft expedite the patient to the nearest ground or air ambulance. Our aircraft aren't fully equipped with trauma equipment and medical personnel."

The other crew members that assisted with the rescue were Pilot Chief Warrant Officer-4 David Gates, Flight Engineer Master Sgt. Greg Clancy, Flight Engineer Sgt. Ramon Arrazcata, and Crew Chief Spc. Nick Parrott.

"I do appreciate how dangerous it is and that they were taking the risk on my behalf," said Knoedler.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16