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Updated: Man Missing In Rocky Mountain National Park's Snowy Backcountry Found


Deep snow in the "Chaos Canyon" area of Rocky Mountain National Park complicated a search for a missing Missouri man. NPS photos.

Editor's note: This updates with Mr. Lund being transported to a hospital in Estes Park.

A young Missouri man who became disoriented in the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park during an early season snowstorm was led out of the park Thursday by rangers and taken to an Estes Park, Colorado, medical center.

Rangers had reached Andrew Lund, 22, of Branson, Missouri, just after 11 a.m. MST Thursday.

"At 10:30 a.m. this morning verbal contact was made between a search team and Lund.   Due to no contact with Lund in the the Chaos Canyon area yesterday, search efforts were also made in the Dream Lake and Emerald Lake area today," Kyle Patterson, the park's spokeswoman, reported. "Lund was above Emerald Lake in the Tyndall Glacier area, not above Lake Haiyaha as he initially reported to park rangers.  A search team reached him at 11:06 a.m.  They are assessing his condition and determining the best way to assist him from the challenging terrain."

About 90 minutes later additional gear to warm up the backpacker was dropped by helicopter onto the west shore of Emerald Lake. Rescuers then led Mr. Lund around the lake on foot, and they reached the Bear Lake Trailhead at 2:30 p.m. From there he was taken to the Estes Park Medical Center, Ms. Patterson said.

Winter conditions -- deep snow and wind-chill temperatures below zero -- had hampered efforts to find the man. Adding to the concern for Mr. Lund was the possibility that he was not properly prepared for dealing with snow and cold.

Mr. Lund called the park's dispatch office Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. asking for help. He told the dispatchers that he thought he "was somewhere above Lake Haiyaha (elevation 10,220 feet) seeking shelter under a large boulder," Ms. Patterson said earlier today before the backpacker was reached.

The young man had hitchhiked to the park and was dropped off at the Bear Lake Trailhead on Tuesday at approximately 2 p.m. Overnight temperatures on Tuesday were less than 25 degrees and more than a foot of snow fell in the area by Wednesday morning. 

"He seems to be unprepared for the deep snow and winter conditions; however, he does have a sleeping bag, tarp and whistle," Ms. Patterson said in that first release. "He indicated he was wet, cold and had no water."

While rangers had made cellphone contact with Mr. Lund on Wednesday, after 3 p.m. they were no longer able to reach him. They tried to track the location of his cellphone, but it apparently did not have that feature.

An initial "hasty search" team reached the Lake Haiyaha area around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.  Lake Haiyaha is 2.1 miles from the popular Bear Lake Trailhead.  Additional  searchers reached the area at 3:15 p.m.  They searched the upper “Chaos Canyon” area, west of Lake Haiyaha and attempted to establish contact using air horns and whistles.

Chaos Canyon is appropriately named for its very large boulder fields that make walking difficult.  With more than 18 inches of new snow in this area, current conditions were challenging and hazardous, said Ms. Patterson. Additionally, temperatures Wednesday night into Thursday were forecasted to be 5 degrees with a wind chill of -5 degrees.


So the NPS, and ultimately the taxpayers, have to flip the bill for rescuing this man who was hiking alone and admittedly unprepared for the winter weather conditions. No wonder the NPS has a $4-6 billion maintenance backlog (source: NPCA The big backcountry parks have to spend a huge percentage of their ever-shrinking resources rescuing the Darwin Award candidates who think that they can overcome Mother Nature and her wrath.

I would say that I am sorry for not being more sympathetic to this man's plight, but I am not. These dramatic search and rescue operations cost the parks millions of dollars every year, and deprive the parks of the ability to allocate these funds to increase visitor services, build/ renovate facilities, and expand interpretive programs. This is a perfect example of a young man who arrogantly defied every rule of backcountry camping/hiking, and is now crying for park personnel to rescue him from a situation he knowingly put himself in. IF he is rescued, I believe that he should have to repay the costs of his rescue to RMNP. And if he doesn't make it, I hope others will take a valuable lesson from this man's arrogance and stupidity.

At least he has a sleeping bag. How about giving the 22 year old a break. I am 75 plus and remember all the stupid things I did at that age. It is a miracle that I survived.

 How do you know he " arrogantly defied every rule of backcountry camping..."? Sounds like the man was just hiking-- had a tarp,whistle and a sleeping bag. From what I read the storm was unexpected. Accidents can happen to anyone--how about a little compassion??

I wholeheartedly agree with this well-written comment. It's a shameful waste of human and financial resources to have to attempt to find this man. Fine him and make him a 'poster child' to communicate the inherent risks of hiking to the visiting public.

People make mistakes. It sounds like he was somewhat prepared in case of an emergency. I agree that he should pay some of the cost of the search and rescue, if not all of it. But to say it's wasteful to search for a human who needs help (for whatever the reason may be) is "arrogant and stupid." Lighten up and have a sliver of compassion. 

That area is not what I would call "backcountry." It is a well-travelled area and rated as pretty easy in most hiking guides. It sounds like he was caught by surprise. Although he made some mistakes, he hardly warrants the tirade provided in the above comment. He was smart enough to find shelter, have a sleeping bag, a tarp, and a whitle and he could have eaten the snow for hydration (seems logical to me.) He was also smart enough to recognize that he needed help instead of trying to get out when he was in over his head. Glad he had cell phone signal and seems to be OK.

Someone mentioned the storm being unexpected. The winter storm warning was released on Monday night/Tuesday morning and they were predicting the storm from at least Sunday, that I remember.
Weather does change fast in RMNP, however, it seems this man could have been a little more prepared and checked in with a ranger's station for a weather report before heading out.
Glad he made it out safely.

Kind of funny how the anonymous comment at 11:53 sounds like the same anoymous comment at 11:25 ?? LOL

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