Yesterday multiple emergency services agencies including the Saguache County Search and Rescue team concluded a mission that ended in a fatality on Challenger Point, located in neighboring Custer County.
On July 28 the body of 41-year-old Lt. Colonel USAF Dan Wallick was recovered from Challenger Point, a popular summit for hikers looking to take on a “14er.” The initial call came in on the evening of Wednesday, July 24, when Saguache County received a 911 call for an overdue hiker in the Kit Carson Peak/Challenger Point area. The hiker had intended to summit both peaks and was reported overdue by family members.
By dawn’s first light at 0600 on Thursday, July 25, Custer County officials took the protocol lead in the search and rescue mission, since the incident was technically in their county. Search and Rescue teams were fielded, covering the major trail systems and routes leading up to Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point, two of Colorado’s 14ers.
The day started out for the seasoned hiker at the Willow Creek trail trailhead by Crestone which is located in Saguache County. Wallick had headed first to Challenger Point where he summited this 14,087-foot fourteener at 11a.m. Then he headed towards neighboring Kit Carson, reaching its peak at a few minutes past noon. That was the last communication indicated from family reports, adding: “His descent was back towards Challenger, but it is not known what he did from the saddle on the way down.”
That was Wednesday and when nightfall came and there was no additional communication from the Air Force Colonel, family members made the call to alert authorities.
Eventually, air support was called in and on Saturday, July, 27 the victim’s body was located by a Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control helicopter. However, due to the difficult terrain and deteriorating weather conditions, the search teams were told to stand down and re-inserted on yesterday, Sunday, July 28 to access and recover Wallick’s body.
It’s always a group effort during these SAR missions, and the following organizations were also there for the assist: Saguache County Search and Rescue, Baca Grande Volunteer Fire Department, Custer County Search and Rescue (CCSAR), Western Mountain Rescue Team, Fremont Search and Rescue, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, US Forest Service, Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), Colorado Search and Rescue (CSAR), leadership from his assigned command, as well as aerial assets from Flight for Life, Buckley Air Force Base Colorado Army National Guard (COANG), and Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (CO DFPC) aircraft.