Glenn Porzak, attorney and notable CU grad, hurt in Brainard Lake climbing accident

Categories: News

glenn porzak photo.jpg
Glenn Porzak.
CU-Boulder's distinguished alumni list includes the likes of politicians Hank Brown and Ralph Carr, sportscaster Chris Fowler, South Park co-creator Trey Parker and attorney Glenn Porzak, whose entry notes that he "led the first American team to climb two peaks over 26,000 feet on the same trip: Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse; fourth American to climb the 'Seven Summits.'" Which makes his serious injury and rescue after a climbing accident this weekend all the more surprising.

One indication of Porzak's reputation as an adventurer can be seen in the extraordinary detail offered by the Boulder County Sheriff's Office release about his rescue following a sixty-to-seventy-foot fall suffered during a Saturday climb with son Austin Porzak and companion Robert Petrowsky, 28. The narrative says Porzak's condition is not known, but the Boulder Daily Camera characterizes it as serious.

Here's the BCSO account:

Fallen climber in Brainard Lakes area

On 08/21/10 at approximately 10:08 am Boulder County dispatch received a report of a fallen climber in the Brainard Lakes area of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. According to initial reports the climber had fallen approximately 200 feet sustaining major injuries. Indian Peaks Fire Department, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Boulder County Sheriff's Office (BCSO), and Boulder County Emergency Services were dispatched to the scene.

Upon arrival rescuers initiated Long Lake Command and two members of Indian Peaks Fire started up the trail. Rocky Mountain Rescue Group assumed the role of Incident Operations. They then met with the reporting party, identified as Robert Petrowsky, a 28 year old male from Leadville, Co. Petrowsky told them that he was climbing with his friend and his friend's father in the area of Little Pawnee Peak. Petrowsky identified his friend as Austin Porzak and the patient as Glenn Porzak, a 64-year-old male. He said that they were scrambling down a low fifth class rock face when a rock gave way as Glenn was climbing down. Robert stated that he saw Glenn tumble down with additional rocks falling around him and then he went out of sight. Robert then ran down the trail to summon rescuers while Austin went down to help his father.

According to additional witnesses in the area, they heard a large rockfall at approximately 9:05 am and then screams for help but they were not able to locate the source of the rockfall, and a short time later the screams stopped.

Upon reaching the trailhead, Robert, who is experienced in emergency operations, asked Thousand Trails to contact BCSO dispatch and request a Flight For Life helicopter. Thousand Trails is the concessionaire for the Brainard Lakes area and have a satellite phone for emergency use. At that time a Flight for Life helicopter was dispatched to the area. Robert also told rescuers that a high angle evacuation would be necessary to move the patient off of the mountain.

At approximately 10:50 am Flight for Life and a member of Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG) lifted off from the Brainard Lake landing zone and dropped off the RMRG member in order to make patient contact and assessment and also to establish communications with incident command and operations. At this time the exact location of Glenn was still unknown and Front Range Rescue Dogs were dispatched to the scene. BCSO Advocates were also requested to the scene to assist.

Flight for Life was then utilized in a "search and assist" capacity to ferry additional rescuers and their equipment up to the ridge above Glenn. During his recon of the area the Flight for Life pilot was able to identify a possible landing zone near the bottom of the scree slope.

Once rescuers reached Glenn and Austin around 12:00 they found him on a steep 50-60 degree scree slope at approximately 12,000 feet and that Glenn had fallen approximately 60-70 feet and had sustained significant injuries. Per one RMRG member on scene it was going to be a "multi pitch, all day event" to evacuate Glenn off of the scree slope. Incident Command and Operations discussed their options and decided on a three-pronged approach. Rescuers on scene worked to medically stabilize Glenn and to place him in a litter for evacuation.

Option one was to request a Blackhawk helicopter from Colorado Air National Guard to hoist Glenn from the middle of the scree field and fly him to the Brainard Lake landing zone to place him on the Flight for Life helicopter to transport him to St. Anthony's Central in Denver, a Level 1 trauma center. This option required the least movement of Glenn. A request for the Blackhawk was then made at 1:00 pm.

Option two was for RMRG to evacuate Glenn down the scree slope utilizing high angle rescue techniques. This option required extensive rope rigging and would call for significant movement of Glenn in his unstable condition.

The third, least desirable option would be to evacuate Glenn by litter all the way to the trailhead. This option was only considered as a last resort should inclement weather make continued air operations impossible.

All three options were initiated simultaneously with the speed of transport of Glenn to be the determining factor. RMRG began lowering Glenn down the 60-degree scree slope at approximately 2:30pm after rigging the necessary rope anchors. They encountered significant rock fall during the 1200 foot lowering operation.

At approximately 4:15 pm rescuers and Glenn reached the lower landing zone that the Flight for Life pilot had identified. At the same time the Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter arrived on scene. It was determined that the Flight for Life helicopter would be utilized to transport Glenn. After additional medical care Glenn was air lifted to St. Anthony's Central hospital in Denver at approximately 4:35pm. Glenn's current medical condition is unknown at the time of this press release.

The Blackhawk was then employed to bring down Austin Porzak and the extensive amount of rescue equipment to the Brainard Lake landing zone, enabling the rescuers a much quicker hike out to the trailhead. The Mile High chapter of the American Red Cross supplied food and drink for the rescuers during the operation.

All three of the climbers had extensive climbing experience. Glenn Porzak has a climbing resume, which includes being one of approximately 115 people to climb the "Seven Summits", the highest mountains on the seven continents including Mt. Everest.

Incident Command was terminated at approximately 7:30 pm after all rescuers had cleared the field.

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