Two teens, 16 and 18, that set out on a winter camping trip in western Boulder County failed to return as planned on Sunday. This prompted a search and rescue party to be sent out.

The first step of the search and rescue was finding a reference point for where the teens might be – ideally a parked vehicle. Though this was made difficult by heavy snowfall, the vehicle was found in early morning hours of Monday, October 15. It was found near the Mitchell Lake Trailhead, part of Brainard Lake Recreational Area, located close to Ward.

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After the vehicle was found, another wave of searchers set out to find the teens at roughly 3 AM. Less than four hours later, the searchers were able to find the boys by establishing voice contact. The boys appeared to be suffering from frostbite with a tent that had been shredded by wind and filled with snow. Other gear and camping provisions were frozen. With the help of rescuers and dry clothes, the boys made it back to their parents at the trailhead. The rescue concluded around noon.

Often times, it’s easy for most to point out the faults of individuals that require rescue on the trail. Instead of focusing on that, it’s more important to focus on what these teens did right – they stayed put. Despite their tent and clothing failing them, they remained at their campsite. This is eventually what led to rescuers being able to quickly find them – in less than 4 hours after finding their vehicle! While it can be difficult to stay put when lost or in danger, this can be a big factor in survival. Had the boys wandered off into the weather with low visibility and high stress, they could have easily become disoriented and this story could have ended quite differently.

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