Lost hiker at Wheeler Peak

A 32 year old woman called 911 on February 4th, 2018 saying she had climbed Wheeler Peak and had become lost on the way down. At one point, she thought she could see lights of the Bavarian and at another could hear running water.

Team 1 (including 2 TSAR members, LJ Knowles & Karlis Viceps) left base at 2:30AM, and hiked in 30+ mile per hour sustained winds to Bull-of-the-Woods then south over Frazer Mountain. Team 2 (comprised of members of TSV Search and Rescue) hiked to Williams Lake then climbed up towards Wheeler Peak. Terrain was bare in some areas and moderately deep snow in others. Team 1 reported seeing foot prints likely to be subject’s, indicating travel northwest into the La Cal Basin. Inspection of the point given by the hiker’s GPS gave no clues or footprints.

A team from Red River began hiking up the South Fork of the Red River towards Middle Fork Lake around sun up. At 10AM more teams arrived at base. TSAR members were Roy Dunlap, Angelica Voekel, and Allie Heller. They were joined with several other SAR personnel from Santa Fe and assigned to go to Bull-of-the-Woods then over Frazer Mtn. At some point that large team would be split into to smaller teams, one of which would go down the Red River Middle Fork the other would continue south through La Cal Basin. A horse team was assigned a search from Bull-of-the-Woods to points north.

Around 12:15PM, the Red River team found the subject just downstream from Middle Fork Lake. The large combined team and the horse team (both of which had not gotten very far into their assignment), and teams 1 & 2 were called back to base.

The subject was on her feet and still moving. The Red River team did not report anything about her condition and said she would be taken to a waiting ambulance for a check up. All on the TSV side of the ridge returned safely to base.

The behavior of the subject is typical. More than one person in the past has gotten lost coming down from Wheeler Peak and into La Cal Basin and then gone east down the middle fork of the Red River. In the wilderness, as soon as you are lost: stay where you are and do not move except to avoid immediate danger. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return, and carry always carry essential survival gear.

Incident base was the Taos Ski Valley Fire Station. TSAR, Santa Fe SAR and Taos Ski Valley Search and Rescue responded. Al Webster was Incident Commander for the first operational period, Spencer Moreland was Incident Commander for the second operational period. Richard McCracken wrote this report and worked at incident base.

Map data including TSAR member activity is available here.