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Contact: Kyle Patterson, (970) 586-1363
At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers were contacted via cell phone by Samuel Frappier, 19, from Quebec, Canada. When Frappier contacted rangers he indicated he was stuck on the Keyhole Route. Using cell phone GPS coordinates, rangers determined he was not on the Keyhole Route, but was likely on the east side of Longs Peak.
On May 27, Frappier and his friend had intended to go to the summit of Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route but mistakenly headed to Chasm Lake instead. From Chasm Lake, they climbed into the Chasm cirque and ascended The Flying Dutchman couloir. They separated on the couloir. Frappier's friend continued to head up The Flying Dutchman and went to the top of The Beaver formation by way of The Loft where he turned around and headed back down to Chasm Lake. Frappier came down The Flying Dutchman, ascended the Camel's Gully to Mount Lady Washington, and reached the summit of Longs Peak via the north face. Frappier descended from the summit down the Kiener's Route and eventually crossed the Notch Couloir. He then found himself at an extremely precarious, narrow location at roughly 13,000 feet along Broadway Ledge with a sheer 1,000 foot drop-off below him.
At this point, Frappier called park rangers via his cell phone and indicated that he could not go up or down. His friend heard Frappier's shouts of distress and hiked out to the Longs Peak Trailhead to get help.
Although Frappier was reported as being physically fit, he had no technical climbing equipment and was not an experienced mountaineer. He was not prepared to spend the night. He was fortunate that although overnight temperatures were in the 30s, there were no significant storms on Tuesday.
Late on Tuesday night, the initial park technical rescue team arrived at the Chasm Shelter at the base of the east face of Longs Peak to stage for Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday morning, May 28, the field team, using spotting scopes, was able to determine Frappier's exact location. A Trans Aero helicopter assisted with aerial reconnaissance and prepositioning of supplies. From the helicopter, rangers were able to further assess Frappier's location and condition.
The park's Search and Rescue team requested assistance from the Teton Interagency Helicopter from Jackson, Wyoming. They reached Rocky Mountain National Park at approximately 1:15 p.m. This helicopter and crew are able to perform short-haul operations. Short-haul is the ability to transport persons suspended beneath the helicopter to or from the scene. It eliminates the need for a helicopter to land. Often time, weather and conditions hinder short-haul capabilities.
Through Wednesday, the park's Search and Rescue team staged in the Chasm Meadows area. They were hampered with a number of hazards including active ice and rock fall due to spring melting. While the sun was shining on the east side, team leaders chose not to jeopardize the lives of the rescuers to reach Frappier. Down drafts of wind impacted the operations of the short-haul helicopter and crew. During the late afternoon, the intense sun moved from the area and conditions began to stabilize. Melting conditions slowed down and the rescue teams prepared to move to reach Frappier. Unfortunately, Frappier's cell phone battery was drained and rescuers were no longer able to communicate with him.
Frappier, concerned that he would be spending a second night on the mountain, started to move on his own at approximately 4:00 p.m. He was extremely fortunate, as this was roughly the same time he had moved on the east side of Longs Peak the day before, and the snow and conditions were more stable. Frappier moved down toward rescuers who were staged at Chasm Meadows. He was given initial medical care and flown to Upper Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park where he was taken by ambulance to the Estes Park Medical Center for further medical evaluation. He was released later than night.
Forty-six people and two helicopters were involved with this incident. The final cost is estimated to be $41,000. The National Park Service does not charge for search and rescue services.