Tuesday, June 23, 2015

High Altitude Crash

What a nice view of Pike's Peak from the Garden of the Gods!  This may be the best photo I've ever taken...and from a phone at that.
Our plan for the day was to do the Cog Up/Bike Down from Challenge Unlimited.  We ran a bit late getting to their office and had to quickly complete paperwork before heading off with a group of 24 and our guides to the Cog Railway Depot.  Our guide Sarah got the tickets, Kelly gave us instructions, and the guides took off for the summit in the vans. 

It got steadily cooler as we gained elevation.  The temperature was around freezing with a slight wind when we reached the summit.

After gearing up and getting fitted for our bikes we were ready to take the 20-mile ride down the mountain.  The plan was to make several stops along the way.

We left the parking lot near the rear of the pack.  After rounding the first switchback I thought one in the group was going off the edge as he looked back to check on his wife.  I passed him, came around a slow curve to the left and saw that we had really gotten behind the group.  Debbie and Zack were behind me.  Most of the group and lead van were waiting at a rally point at the next switchback.
I let off the brakes and took off to the group.  When I got there I turned around to watch Zack come in to the group as well.  I got prepared to help him stop, but he did a great job coming to a safe stop.
When I looked up the road to see how the others were doing I saw that our chase van was stopped and folks were tending to someone who was down.  I knew Debbie was up there somewhere so I started looking for her white jacket, but couldn't see it.  By that time Jackson, one of the guides, was starting to head up the mountain on his bike to assist.  I was concerned that Debbie was down so took off hiking up to the accident.
When I arrived I found Debbie on her back in the road with Sarah keeping her head stable.  Her helmet was off and damaged, her sunglasses were in pieces, and she had a large knot on her left cheek.  Sadly, she really had no idea of what had happened.  One of the riders behind her reported that she turned her handle bars to the left and went down.
Guides Ken and Kelly had taken charge of the situation and called local EMS.  After some time we got a neck collar on her and loaded into one of the vans.  Traffic was horrible which probably delayed getting her in the van and headed down the mountain.  Zack and I jumped in the van and Ken took off driving.  I felt sorry for the rest of the group as we drove past them.  They had been standing in the elements for some time and I could see some shivering.
Ken is an experienced guide and ranger with lots of experience on the mountain.  He drove like a man possessed, passing cars and bicycles until we hit a logjam of traffic that slowed us down.
And then it started hailing.
The amount of hail was amazing to us.  It made feel even more sorry for the rest of our group still up on the road coming down. 
As we came into Glen Cove a motorcycle went down on the wet road covered in hail.  We had passed a plow truck heading up hill just a few moment prior.
We had made it well down the mountain before meeting the ambulance coming up for her.  After a quick assessment by EMS, Zack and I jumped in the ambulance with her and we headed the rest of the way down the mountain and on to the hospital.
Debbie was quite lucky to escape with no broken bones in her face.  She went down hard and has pretty good road rash on her cheek.
Our belief is that she got light-headed from the altitude, passing out, and then going down on the bike.  We believe she was pretty limp as she hit the road because she has no defensive wounds on her hands. 
She has a black eye, swollen check, sore shoulder, scraps on her knuckles, and a sore hip and back.  We're thankful that she wasn't hurt worse and very thankful to the guides who took care of her.
As the days wore on Debbie has gained memory of some of her time on the peak and her short ride, but has no recollection of her accident.  She recalls wanting to sit up in the van, but remembers little else in the van.
I'm not discouraged from attempting this trip again, but I may be going it alone.

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