Paragliding Skier Crashes Near Summit Of Fourteener

Rescuers Lower Injured Man Down 14,000-Foot Quandary Peak In Sub-Zero Cold

A paragliding skier who crashed on Quandary Peak was rescued during a harrowing, 8-hour recovery in sub-zero temperatures Sunday night.

The unidentified 40-year-old Michigan man crashed when his small paragliding chute collapsed as he attempted to glide off the 14,265-foot peak about 2 p.m. Sunday, authorities said Monday.

The man suffered compound fractures of both legs, according to summitdaily.com.

The injured man was rescued from upper slopes of the peak as 29 rescuers teamed up to lower him down the mountain in a toboggan, said Anna DeBattiste of the Summit County Rescue Group.

The injured skier reached a waiting ambulance about 11:15 p.m. -- nine hours after the accident was reported.

In speed gliding, a popular sport in Europe, extreme skiers use a foot-launched parachute which is smaller than a paragliding or sky diving chute, to lift off the ground intermittently, depending on the wind speed and direction, DeBattiste said. The sport is also called speed flying or ski gliding.

The injured man was described as an experienced speed-gliding instructor with many hours of gliding time, DeBattiste said.

The man and his friend took off from the summit of Quandary Peak, south of Breckenridge, Sunday afternoon. Their plan was to ski down the East Ridge and then make either a sharp right-or left-hand turn and paraglide to the bottom, DeBattiste said.

The first man launched his chute and glided successfully to the bottom on the south side of the mountain, but the second man reportedly "lost wind" and crashed near the top, DeBattiste said.

Five hikers climbing the peak saw the man crash and rushed to his aid, she said. They stayed with the injured man while he was waiting for emergency responders and helped rescuers with the beginning of the evacuation.

"The Summit County Rescue Group and the Summit County Sheriff's Office would like to express their sincere gratitude to these five hikers, who aided and expedited the rescue effort significantly," DeBattiste said.

A Flight for Life helicopter from Denver helped shuttle three rescuers and medical gear to a landing zone about 1,000 feet below the injured man, DeBattiste said. But the terrain was too rugged for the chopper to transport the patient off the mountain.

As nighttime temperatures plunged to minus-5 degrees, rescuers lowered the injured man in a toboggan using a combination of hand-carrying, sliding the toboggan and using ropes to lower the sled. Vail Mountain Rescue and Alpine Rescue Team joined the three teams in the rescue. Many rescuers had climbed the peak on the popular East Ridge trail to gain access to the victim.