The scenic splendor and quiet solitude of high elevation destinations attract outdoor enthusiasts to Park County throughout the summer months.
Visitors and locals alike take advantage of trails and accessible roadways, which are not passable during the winter months, to hike, camp, frolic or simply take photographs at or near Colorado’s most imposing peaks.
Unfortunately, magical summer outings on top of the world can yield lethal results when dangerous conditions and high-altitude visitors collide.
Such was the case June when 28-year-old Preston Tracy of Denver was hiking with a friend near the 13,684-foot top end of White Ridge.
Tracy decided to take an off-trail route and slipped trying to cross a snowfield. According to the Park County Coroner’s report, Tracy slid approximately 1000 feet to his death.
Tracy was an experienced hiker who, according to friends and family, died doing what he enjoyed more than anything else, hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
Tracy’s body was recovered through a joint effort by the South Park Ambulance District, North-West Fire Protection District, Park County Sheriff’s Office, Park County Search and Rescue and the Park County Coroner Office. Tracy’s official cause of death, as stated by the Park County Coroner Office, was “massive head and chest injuries.”
Tragic occurrences such as the one just described are all too common in high-elevation locations throughout the state, and quite often could be avoided.
Upon request from The Flume, the PCSAR issued the following advice regarding areas referred to as “steep snow.”
“Following a big snow year, trails you normally hike may still have extensive snow fields at elevation. Travel on steep snow with rocky run-outs in hiking boots without the proper equipment and training is very dangerous. Do not underestimate it.”
Additionally, PCSAR offered the following advice regarding off-trail hiking at any elevation, in any season:
“Successful off-trail travel (aka bushwhacking) requires proper navigation training using a map and compass. While you should also carry a GPS, never rely solely on it. Always carry the 10 essentials when trail hiking.”
The classic list of 10 essentials for hikers generally includes: Map, compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, extra clothing, headlamp or flashlight, first-aid supplies, fire-starter, matches, knife and extra food.
This and other potentially life-saving tips can be found on the PCSAR website at www.pcsar.org.