AMRC Search/Recovery 5-15-15 
Saturday, May 16, 2015, 03:16 PM - AMRC
Posted by Administrator
On Weds, AMRC got the page-out to search for a 24-year-old female missing in the Sandias. I had work obligations, so I didn't make it up Weds or Thursday (but they did close down the crest road past the ski area so I couldn't finish my weekly road bike crest climb). It was my Friday off though so I headed up to the 10K with the rig. Andreas, Craig, and I were assigned to Team 36 and sent out into very difficult terrain east of the crest road to look for clues that the patient had started hiking downhill. It seemed like a long shot-especially since someone had found the car keys up at the top of the mountain. We reluctantly searched between 9400 and 9600 feet for miles, crossing deep gorges and lots of downfall, and occasionally in snow/graupel. It was terrible and we found nothing except a few large footsteps, 3 party balloons, and the downhill MTB trail that I'll like to check out again sometime.





After 6 hours of that nonsense, we returned to incident base, chowed down in the police van, and were reassigned. To our luck, there was a break in the police case: a witness saw the subject on the cliff-side of the crest railing at a particular location. The witness reported that the patient looked very troubled and kept returning to the same spot along the cliff. I followed the APD officer up to the crest and he brought us south to the location. We built and anchor and rapped down the ~70 ft cliff and began searching. At this point, the weather had turned further south, the snow was picking up and coating the steep low-angle terrain. The winds started picking up as well. Craig, Andreas, and I split up to search along the cliffs. It took some time, but as we keep working our way down the hill, Andreas finally made the find. I radioed in the death code on the police radio and our search changed over to a recovery mission. It took quite some time to get APD down to take photos, so I ascended back up to get gear for the low-angle operation: a 200' rope, skedco, and rigging kit. At this point the lightning-thunder gaps were getting shorter, the winds were up to 30 mph, and it was snowing like crazy. It was very difficult to navigate the terrain or see into the wind. I ran the sked and rope down to the body. After the APD officer got photos, Andreas and I tied her into the rope system, put her in the body bag, and then packaged her into the sked. I went back up to get a 3:1 system setup, but found that that 200' rope wasn't going to make it, so I spliced it to the main for the high angle. I built a quick re-direct to get the rope up the low angle gully and Andreas manned the litter. I took over at the re-direct and we connected the sked into the belay the base of the cliff, added a tagline, and got the sked to the edge. Unfortunately the sked caught a minor underhang and the tagline attached to the foot was nearly useless to dislodge it. Kerry managed to get a hand to the sked to dislodge it and the haul team pulled it up over the edge. The three people below loaded up gear and climbed up with a hand line north of the high-angle system. Lightening was within a mile and the winds were 40-50 mph and there was 3 inches of snow accumulation at this point. It was my 13th hour of the mission when I jogged into the crest parking lot. We fled the storm, debriefed at the ski area, set gear out to dry in the cache, and I headed home for much needed sleep.

This missing-person's story got a lot of press. Here's a few of the news items:
KRQE May 11, KRQE May 12, KRQE May 13, KRQE May 16, Albuquerque Journal May 16, KOAT May 16.






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