The Book

From the Foreword:


Awing. Daunting. Alluring. A place with the obvious power to kill the drone and doleful plaints of civilization, the Sangres’ temple-like aura is potent, but it’s a solid half-day drive for most of its closest urban visitors. Once there, even by guidebook it’s hard to penetrate very far without rigor and a goal. Its 14ers and (quietly) world-renown technical faces require altitude-gaining, scree-smearing tramps. Consequently, headlong adventurers are soon in zones where serious rescue will take hours or days, if possible at all. Distinctive, indeed. Even the spidery reach of cell phones, GPS signals, etc. falter or fail here, lending to solitude that is its own Siren.


As president of Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue, this was Kevin Wright’s demesne. Alpine, intimate, desolate—it’s been his Shangri-La since boyhood. He’d be the first to tell you that in fiction one need only arrive in Shangri-La. Ah, victory! In real life, the adventure too often turns dire on the way out. Then SAR—“your best friends on your worst day”—manifests as mythological hero/guides in the flesh. If you’re lucky, you’re save-able. If not … you will be conveyed with the care, compassion, and honor befitting a beloved fallen warrior.


A better option (for you and SAR) would be to keep reading. Read like you were SAR. Enjoy the harrowing action and learn. As you do, say a prayer of thanks to a brotherhood/sisterhood that has your back if your own Shangri-La ever becomes your personal living hell.

-by Wayne K. Sheldrake, author of Instant Karma

From the Introduction:


SAR in Colorado’s Sangre. Unabbreviated and translated, this means search and rescue in Colorado’s blood. This book is a collection of true search and rescue stories from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado. From 2006 to 2011, I served on the Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue (AVSAR) team, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that responds to all emergency incidents in the Blanca Mountain Group. For three years, from 2008 to 2011, I served as president of AVSAR. In that time, I witnessed much suffering; I also witnessed incredible heroism.


The number one reason I wrote this book is to honor the heroic men and women who volunteer their own time, resources, skills, and potentially their lives to serve on small, rural mountain search and rescue teams. Their bravery in the service of others is the embodiment of heroism.


The second reason I share these stories is to honor all the subjects and their families who have suffered immensely or perished in the Sangre de Cristos. In sharing these narratives, my intent is to show compassion and aid others wanting to avoid similar tragedies.


Third, I wrote this book to educate mountaineers and the public about the reality of mountain SAR operations, specifically the challenges faced by small, rural all-volunteer teams that cover some of the most demanding mountainous territory in the contiguous United States.


The fourth reason for writing this book is to educate the public about basic wilderness survival in mountainous terrain. I taught a course at Adams State University called “Introduction to Search And Rescue, A Class for Heroes,” and much of that survival and SAR information I’ve included in this book.


Historically, annual AVSAR mission fatality rates range between 50 and 80 percent, so this book gives the reader an accurate sense of the proportions of mission endings.


I hope you find these stories engaging, but I also hope they could serve to save your or another’s life in a wilderness survival situation.

                                                                                                               -Kevin Wright