Two experienced mountaineers trapped for more than 48 hours below the summit of Longs Peak in icy conditions hiked to safety around noon on Friday, according to colleagues and family members.
After recent storms blanketed the 14,259-foot peak in snow and ice, Suzanne Turell, 33, and Connie Yang, 32 — both from York, Maine — sent a mobile phone text at 7:07 a.m. MDT Thursday reading, "We need help. At top of Longs Peak. 13400 feet. Whiteout snowstorm. No injuries. Iced over risk of hypothermia."
The pair noted their mobile battery was dying. Calls from rangers and friends had failed to reach the pair and on Friday morning, two search and rescue teams were activated.
Word came from the National Park Service that contact had been made with the two women who apparently had descended on their own. There was no immediate word of their condition.
"If they walked off, that's a very good sign, though I'll have to yell at my daughter because it's not the safest thing to do," said Michael Turell, Suzanne's father. "On the other hand, they'd been up there 48 hours, no one had come to them, so I'm sure they were a little concerned."
Suzanne Turell is the director of product design and Yang is the director of engineering for the New Hampshire tent and sleeping bag company Nemo Equipment.
Nemo spokeswoman Kate Ketschek said both are very experienced hikers but didn't have mountaineering equipment. She added that they wouldn't have called for help if they didn't need it.
Ketschek said the duo was equipped with fall hiking equipment, including 30-degree sleeping bags and a double-wall tent, but were probably not prepared for winter conditions. The women annually trek into remote areas and have experience hiking in areas ranging from the Appalachian Trail to California.
Their Colorado visit began on Monday. They were scheduled to fly home on Friday.
The flurry of text messages prompted family and friends to jump into action, contacting Colorado's congressional delegation, a private aviation firm and others as efforts to aid the women ran into complications from the rampant flooding in the region.
Barbara Turell, Suzanne's mother, said Friday that Colorado Heli-Ops, a Broomfield company that does high-altitude flying, has been contacted about dropping supplies to the stranded hikers. But while owner Dennis Pierce confirmed that he was aware of the request for help, but pilots were occupied by demands triggered by the flooding.
Ketschek said Rocky Mountain National Park rangers sent a small search party in Thursday but they were turned back by flooded roads and closures before reaching the trailhead.
Turell and Yang's text noted their precise GPS coordinates. They were hunkering down in a yellow tent near the Keyhole Notch, a rocky pass between Longs Peak and Storm Peak.
"Can't move because of ice storm. Don't know how long it will last. Been here for one day and trying to wait it out."