Four women from Georgia were rescued in the Pecos Wilderness on Thursday after they became disoriented while hiking in Alpine terrain, New Mexico Search and Rescue Incident Commander Al Webster said.
The women, between the ages of 20 and 25, became disoriented Wednesday four miles southeast of Truchas Peak. Without snowshoes, they were quickly exhausted from trudging through high snow bluffs.
Volunteers from Santa Fe Search and Rescue, Atalaya Search and Rescue, Cibola Search and Rescue, and New Mexico Search and Rescue hiked 11 miles, with an elevation gain of about 4,500 feet, to reach the women.
Nearly 30 volunteers spent about 24 hours searching for the women, who had been backpacking but were not expecting the deep snow found at the higher elevation, Webster said.
“We love to rescue people,” he said. “We also will recover deceased individuals out in the wilderness, but we are just ecstatic when we can rescue people.”
New Mexico Mounted Search and Rescue provided horses to help bring materials to those on the ground. Civil Air Patrol also provided High Bird radio relay, a high-altitude radio system used to communicate in areas with difficult signal connection.
Lt. Col. Larry Zentner, an incident commander of the Civil Air Patrol, said the group was traveling on the Skyline Trail in the Pecos Wilderness.
“The four adult females were very well equipped, highly experienced and hiked from Jack’s Creek Campground,” he said. “They just got disoriented and it got dark on Wednesday night.”
Zentner said the High Bird radio relay was necessary because of the area’s terrain.
“Once the incident management team realized they were about nine miles deep into the wilderness in very rugged wilderness alpine terrain, the radios that talk to one another directly just weren’t going to work,” he said.
Three planes were used to search for the women, and the rescue mission was completed at about 9 p.m. Thursday.
The hikers had a tent, sleeping bags, food and water, Webster said. After they were rescued, they were assessed by medical professionals, but they had no injuries or health issues.
After being medically cleared, the women returned home, Webster said.
“This was one of the most arduous rescues that I have run recently,” Webster said. “But we really enjoy saving people.”