Channel 7 Chopper Rescues Stranded Hiker

Pilot Misses Newscast To Pluck Hiker From Mountain

A 42-year-old hiker from Littleton, Colo., was safe and sound Wednesday after being plucked from the side of Mount Bierstadt by Airtracker 7, Channel 7's helicopter.

Airtracker 7 Pilot Rich Westra spotted Wendy Dean struggling through deep snow at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. That was about three hours after search and rescue crews started looking for her.

Dean and two friends had set out to climb the 14,060-foot mountain earlier Tuesday, but became separated on the side of the mountain when a cold front blew through and turned the winter hike into a whiteout with zero visibility.

Dean said she became disoriented in the snowstorm, fell and lost her snowshoes. She was stranded for more than 8 hours while her two friends made it back down to the top of Guanella Pass and called for help.

She was spotted by members of the Alpine Rescue Group but they had trouble reaching her.

"I finally heard someone yell my name and I yelled back as loud as I could up here and then I heard somebody yell back and then they stopped and changed direction," Dean told 7NEWS. She didn't hear any more from the rescuers.

Westra, worried about diminishing daylight and dropping temperatures at 6 p.m., dropped down and plucked her from the thigh-deep snow at the 12,600-foot level.

To the relief of everyone, Dean was tired, but otherwise OK.

Because Westra was working to get Dean before it got dark, he didn't have time to send the story back at the time.

"We missed the 6 p.m. newscast," said Westra. "I'm sure I'll hear bout it from the boss, but I feel that we did get her home."

"Rich's assistance, in locating the female subject, was instrumental at a critical time in the course of the events," said Bill Barwick, a spokesman for Alpine Rescue.

Dean told Westra that she'd never been in a helicopter before and didn't expect her first ride to involve a rescue from the side of a mountain.

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