Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Backcountry rescues keep firefighters busy

Tall grass deemed a danger for mountain bikers

Express Staff Writer

After making a pair of backcountry rescues the previous weekend, north valley emergency personnel were once again called on to retrieve two more injured mountain bikers.

Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said the action began Saturday at 2:59 p.m. when his department was dispatched to assist an injured female on the Fox Creek Loop, a popular mountain biking route just north of Ketchum on the west side of state Highway 75.

Just after 4 p.m. a group of Sun Valley and Ketchum firefighters made it to the patient, who was injured near the top of a long climb marked by twisting singletrack.

Elle said the woman was carried to the Fox Creek trailhead in a wheeled litter and then taken by ambulance to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center just after 5:30 p.m.

The emergency responders had farther to travel on Sunday after another mountain biker sustained a back injury crashing on a trail near the East Fork of Baker Creek, often referred to a "Curly's." The trail is on the east side of state Highway 75 about halfway between Ketchum and Galena Lodge, and features a long climb of nearly 2,000 vertical feet up a fire road before descending steeply down rocky singletrack.

Elle said four Ketchum firefighters and two from Sun Valley responded to the call, made at 1:44 p.m. by a friend of the victim.

The emergency personnel made it to the victim by 3:05 p.m. and wheeled him back up to the fire road from the singletrack and then loaded him onto a Sun Valley Fire Department four-wheel ATV outfitted with a special trailer.

The patient was then transferred to an ambulance at Baker Creek Road and delivered to the hospital at 5:15 p.m.

Elle reported that the patient said the crash was caused by overgrown vegetation along the edge of the trail. Many mountain bikers have found that June's heavy rainfall has led to dangerous conditions, as the exceptionally long grass is curving over trails and hiding rocks and other obstacles from view.

"The vegetation is hiding things that can really trip you up," Elle said.

Jon Duval:

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