Two members of a party of four Silverton-based backcountry skiers were caught in back-to-back avalanches Friday afternoon on King Solomon, a peak located to the east of the small town.
Ryan McClure was flown on a Flight For Life helicopter to Mercy Hospital with serious injuries. He is in Denver recovering, although DeAnne Gallegos, spokeswoman for San Juan County, did not know his status. However, a photo posted to social media Monday shows him alert in bed and smiling.
Professional skier Connor Ryan was caught in a slide and carried several hundred feet, according to his Instagram post. Gallegos said Ryan lost his skies in the slide and McClure was attempting to get them back to him when the second slide occurred.
McClure was carried over 1,600 feet and suffered a severe compound fracture of the femur, which, according to Ryan, nearly separated his leg at the knee.
One member of the group used a Garmin satellite communication device to contact rescue services. The fourth member, Isaiah Branch-Boyle, knew there was cellphone service on the ridge above where the incident had taken place. He skinned up the ridge to call Silverton Mountain Rescue personnel and provide more detailed information on the extent of the injuries.
Silverton Mountain Rescue responded around 1 p.m.
Six rescuers were inserted by helicopter, four approached on snow mobiles, three worked on the helicopter and three stayed on the valley floor to coordinate operations.
In his social media post, Ryan said he put tourniquets on McClure’s leg to slow the bleeding. Silverton Mountain Rescue volunteers stabilized McClure and took him to the valley floor on a rescue sled, where a helicopter took him to Mercy. McClure is now in Denver recovering.
The slide occurred on a northeast-facing slope of the mountain and was reported to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center as a “loose snow avalanche.”
The slide was classified as “R1,” meaning it was very small relative to the possible slide path. On the destructive scale, observers reported it was a “D1.5,” which is “relatively harmless to people.”
This is a developing story. Check back with www.durangoherald.com for updates.
This story has been updated to correct a previous error stating how many rescuers were inserted by helicopter.