In June of 2016 a 65-year-old man crashed into rocks and boulders as he tumbled 600 feet down the avalanche chute of a steep mountain. It should have killed him. His climbing partner thought it did.
Climbing “fourteeners” (mountains above 14,000 feet) was a common occurrence for outdoorsman and mountaineer, Doug Olsen. He had done it for years, having scaled over thirty such peaks in Colorado.
On this fateful day, he and his friend, Dan, had decided to combine a backpack and climbing adventure in the Sangre De Cristo Mountain range near Brush Lake. They would hike in on day one, set up camp, then hike to the top of a meager “thirteener,” the next morning.
The area they chose to set up camp was deep in the back country, accessible by a trail that few were willing to hike. The terrain was rugged and demanding, compounded by the fact that it was a Blow Down area. High winds swept through when the jet streams dropped down and literally felled the trees. The trails were more like an obstacle course; very slow going.
They hiked to the top of the first thirteener the next morning. At the top they signed the log. Most mountain peaks have a log for anyone who reaches the top to sign and date. The last entry in the log had been nine months earlier. Few made this hike. All had gone well so they decided to climb a second peak. That didn’t go well.
Above a known avalanche chute, they planned to slide down dragging their picks to slow their descent, a frequent practice of mountaineers. It would save an hour of hiking. When they reached the chute and saw that the melting snow had exposed many huge rocks, they changed their minds. That was the last thing Doug remembered.
Dan would tell him later that he saw him slip, then fall headfirst into a jagged rock splitting his head open. Unable to help, he watched as Doug tumbled six hundred feet crashing into one exposed rock after another. He finally came to a stop next to a boulder at the bottom of the chute.
As Dan made his way down, a gruesome thought plagued his mind. He was certain that Doug was dead. He couldn’t carry the body out and couldn’t leave it for the bears and mountains lions that were active in the area. He would have to bury him on the mountain.
When Dan finally reached him, Doug took a breath. And that is where the miraculous journey really began. It’s a story of courage, determination and most important of all, a series of God miracles that saved his life. Listen as Doug tells his story in his own words on the Family Stories podcast, “The Fall Should Have Killed Him.” Don’t miss it.
God bless you,