Announcing 2023 annual photo contest winners

In Public by Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR)

CSAR’s annual photo contest was judged by Matthew Eric Lit, a Colorado-based professional photographer; Howard Paul, also a Colorado-based professional photographer and a member of Alpine Rescue Team; and Anna DeBattiste, CSAR’s Public Information and Education Committee chair. You can see Matt Lit’s work here and Howard Paul’s work here.

As usual, we had some great entries and it was tough to pick the winners! Here are the first, second and third place winners in each category, plus honorable mentions.

Best Mission/Training Photo Category

Honorable mention – By Harry Sandler, Routt County Search and Rescue. “Searching for a lost snowboarder near Steamboat Resort.”

Third place – By Eva Vaitkus, Routt County Search and Rescue. “From high angle rescue training above Fish Creek Falls.”

Second place – By David Hunsicker, Front Range Mine Rescue. “We are in the Smuggler Mine, about 75 feet off the bottom of level, transporting a manikin up the ladder through heavy simulated smoke. This type of training makes safety a number one priority.”

First place – By Drew Gibson, Summit County Rescue Group. “SCRG members Emily Marotta and Zach Wade skate a loaded akja out of the field on a dark April night after the difficult extrication of a fallen mountaineer high on North Star Mountain.”

Best Interagency Photo

Honorable mention – By Ted Katauskas, Vail Mountain Rescue Group. “On Aug. 25, 2023, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office provided mutual aid aviation support for Vail Mountain Rescue Group, which conducted a search and recovery operation in the Bowl of Tears on Mount of the Holy Cross where a boot had been found. This was the first and only clue positively linked to a subject who went missing after separating from her hiking partner near the mountain’s 14,005’ summit in September, 2005. Early that morning, San Miguel aviators flew the county’s Airbus H125 helicopter from Telluride to a landing zone/staging area on Tigiwon Road outside of Minturn and transported cadaver dog teams from VMRG, Park County SAR, and Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States to a landing zone in the Bowl of Tears at treeline at 11,600 feet. Just two hours into the search, thunderstorms rolled into the Bowl of Tears and the San Miguel County air crew quickly and efficiently evacuated all personnel to the safety of the lower landing zone. Here, San Miguel County Sheriff deputy/SAR specialist Todd Rector confers with Vail Mountain Rescue Group president Scott Beebe as storm clouds descend on the Bowl of Tears.”

Third place – by John Kyler of Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office. “Suspected avalanche burial on Loveland Pass with Alpine Rescue Team, Flight For Life’s Lifeguard 1, Clear Creek Fire and Clear Creek EMS, and Summit and Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Offices.”

Second place – By Brendan Treffinger, Park County Search and Rescue. “PCSAR responded to an SOS signal from a group of two individuals and a dog stranded on the McCurdy Park trail. The rescue involved a challenging 10-hour hike through deep snow, reaching parties who were ill-prepared for winter conditions. Helicopter extraction plans were initiated but weather conditions initially prevented the operation. Eventually, a Colorado National Guard Blackhawk helicopter was able to land about 700 feet from the subjects’ location, successfully evacuating them along with team members.”

First place – By Laraine Martin, Routt County Search and Rescue. “On June 17th, 2023, a dirt biker injured their leg on Lynx Pass while traversing a section of trail with extensive, thick deadfall timber. Pictured here are members of Oak Creek Fire Rescue, Routt County Search and Rescue and Classic Air Medical. All three agencies contributed in an indispensable way to the success of the mission that night – OCFR running chainsaws to clear a path and providing early patient care and packaging, RCSAR providing quick ATV transport for the patient and rescuers up the challenging length of trail, and Classic Air transporting the individual to definitive care.”

Best Internal Teamwork Photo

Honorable mention – By Harry Sandler, Routt County Search and Rescue. “Standing in the shadow of the HS127 ski jump and overlooking downtown Steamboat Springs, RCSAR members use a twin tension rope system to lower a litter and attendants down the 35-degree landing slope during a training at Howelsen Hill.”

Third place – By Andy Novak, Park County Search and Rescue. “We had our first-ever overnight winter training for our Winter Alpine Team at Weston Pass Hut, where the team practiced snow sled technique, snow and ice anchors, avalanche response, steep snow travel, and low angle snow evacucation. We even squeaked in a short tour!”

Second place – Jack Hickisch, Arapahoe Rescue Patrol. “ARP members practice using the litter handles and wheel on a ridgeline in Clear Creek County.”

First place – By Ted Katauskas, Vail Mountain Rescue Group. “In this image, Crosswinds Canine instructor Denise Alvord (standing at left), a SAR K-9 handler who fields with Colorado Task Force 1, Larimer County SAR and Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado, tosses a float toy to diver Seth Luedtke (foreground) before he submerges for another iteration of K-9 water search training in Greeley on Aug 5, 2023.  Vail Mountain Rescue Group K9 technical lead Ted Katauskas rewards VMRG K-9 Stryker with a vigorous game of tug on the bow platform of a Jon boat. Throughout the summer, SAR K-9 teams from around the state and Rocky Mountain region gathered in Greeley to participate in the Crosswinds Canine 2023 Water Series, an 80-hour practical course where K9s and handlers learn and master the basics of how to use scent on wind to locate a diver submerged 20 to 30 feet beneath the surface of a freshwater lake. As a testing evaluator and instructor at Crosswinds Canine, Alvord, a Greeley-based firefighter/paramedic, is one of the nation’s most experienced and sought-after teachers and practitioners of K-9 water search and recovery.”

Best SAR Photo by a Non-SAR Member

Honorable mention – By Blake Dragan of Canon Helitack, submitted by Brian Crowley. “Hover Step training with Chafee County SAR on Nipple Mountain training grounds near Canon City at an elevation of 10,200 feet.”

Third place – By Tanya Gallob of North Fork EMS, submitted by Doug Fritz of Hotchkiss Fire District. “A Hotchkiss firefighter crosses the North Fork of the Gunnison River with a raft and rope system to rescue two stranded rafters on a small island.”

Second place – By Ben Roof on assignment for Vail Daily. “Members of Vail Mountain Rescue Group perform a high angle rescue as part of their MRA recertification test this past April, which they successfully passed.  This portion of the test was done above the Eagle River just west of Wolcott.”

First place – By Aether Vaitkus, son of Routt County SAR member. “The dogs of our teammates during Fourth of July parade.”