Winter hikers warned against these crucial mistakes after frostbitten pair rescued

what is mountain rescue: helicopter winter rescue
The two hikers were airlifted to safety from the Colorado mountains after spending a frigid night in the wild (Image credit: Getty)

A mountain rescue team in southwest Colorado has issued a call to hikers to practice winter mountain safety after a New Year's Day hike came close to turning deadly.

Posting on their Facebook page, Montezuma County Search and Rescue (MCSAR) announced that they received a call on January 2 for two overdue hikers who had been hiking on the Bear Creek Trail, following a night of dangerously low temperatures in the region.

"They had been out since around 3pm on January 1st, and overnight temperatures in the area had reached as low as 5 degrees." 

According to the post, the pair from Texas had advised a family member of their plans before the set off. When they didn't return, the family member alerted mountain rescue, something which MCSAR credits with their survival.

"The hikers carried water and snacks with them and when they realized they were in trouble, they didn't panic. They found a relatively dry spot under a tree and hunkered down until morning and survived with only some mild frostbite."

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Unfortunately, they didn't realize that the information they found on the Bear Creek Trail was for summer conditions  (Image credit: Getty Images)

The team were able to follow the female hiker's tracks up the trail until the hikers were located before extracting them using a Flight For Life helicopter from Durango. Though the hikers did some things right, such as advising a third party of their plans, MCSAR warned that other winter hikers can learn several lessons from the incident, including making sure your route research takes seasonal conditions into account.

"They planned their hike after doing some internet research. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that the information they found on the Bear Creek Trail was for summer conditions – not January in the snow."

Before setting off, it's advised that you have a topographical map of the area where you plan to hike, and know how to read it. You should also carry a compass for navigation rather than relying solely on your phone.

Most importantly, however, hikers are advised to plan any hike in any season to leave them with plenty of daylight.

"They started their hike around 3pm, planning to only be out for a couple of hours. We encourage all hikers to start earlier in the day whether it's summer or winter."

Finally, remember to dress in hiking layers and carry the 10 essentials, including extra dry clothing, a way to stay warm and a headlamp in case you are out after dark.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.