Deputies: Climber recovered during ‘first ever’ overnight helicopter rescue in San Miguel Co.

TELLURIDE, Colo. — A 60-year-old Denver man was rescued overnight Wednesday near Telluride after he was injured while climbing one of Colorado’s steepest peaks.

Jon Rohdes had reportedly started a solo climb down the El Diente Peak (14,165 feet) from a campsite at Navajo Lake when he fell and injured himself, according to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.

Rohdes told members of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team that he was attempting to pull up on a large rock. The rock moved, sending Rohdes plummeting an estimated 1,500 to 1,700 feet.

He sustained a severe leg fracture and some minor facial lacerations as a result of the fall, San Miguel deputies said.

An experienced climber, the 60-year-old had successfully ascended dozens of Colorado’s fourteeners prior to Wednesday’s incident. While it is believed that he does not hold a current Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue card, San Miguel deputies said Rohdes was well prepared to summit the El Diente Peak.

The Sheriff’s Office received reports on the incident just before 8 p.m. Tuesday from the Dolores County Sheriff’s Office. A Search and Rescue operations team was dispatched immediately.

Deputies from the Dolores County Sheriff’s Office contracted Careflight 11 out of Montrose to fly to the Telluride Airport and assist in the rescue operation.

However, due to the rough, mountainous terrain at Rohdes’ location, the helicopter could not safely land, San Miguel deputies said.

Instead, the helicopter tried to drop a backpack containing survival gear to the victim. At this point, night had already set in and the darkness made the survival kit delivery impossible.

“We were becoming increasingly concerned for his health and safety, especially with the falling temperatures and threat for hypothermia,” Sheriff Deputy and SAR coordinator Chris White said.

The declining conditions led to the decision to send in a SAR team overnight.

A five-person SAR team was flown in one-by-one to the foot of the valley near Navajo Basin, San Miguel deputies said. Rescuers then hiked one and a half hours to reach the victim shortly before 4 a.m.

There, the rescue team gave Rohde warm fluids, stabilized his fractured leg and set up camp — Rohde had managed to splint his leg with snow shoes, authorities said.

A Olathe Spray Service helicopter from Olathe was scheduled for a technical high-altitude rescue at daylight.

At approximately 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, rescue crews removed Rohdes from the mountain, officials said. He was flown to Telluride Airport and transported by EMS medics to the Telluride Medical Center. He was treated at the medical facility and then transferred again, this time to Montrose Memorial Hospital.

About 20 San Miguel deputies and search and rescue team members assisted in the mission.

The entire operation lasted about 12 1/2 hours, officials said.

“El Diente is a particularly difficult peak to negotiate search and rescue missions,” Sheriff Bill Masters said. “Doing this mission overnight in darkness presented additional challenges.”

Officials said they believe this is the first ever “night-vision, assisted helicopter rescue in San Miguel County.”

The mission also comes on the heels of another major rescue effort.

At the end of May, a 19-year-old Canadian man was rescued after spending 24 hours on Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park.