Colorado’s grays peak rises 14,278 feet above sea level, high enough that trees can’t grow toward the top, though there are plenty of shrubs, rocks, and boulders. It was in this unforgiving terrain that Bev Wedelstedt was unlucky enough to rupture the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in her left knee.
It was August 2018, and Wedelstedt, 56, was on her way back down the trail with three friends. A storm was brewing, and they were anxious to get off the mountain. When they approached a rocky drop of a couple of feet, Wedelstedt decided that instead of shimmying down on her butt—the safe way to go—she would leap. She landed on her left leg.
Then she heard the snap.
Every step after that was agony. Before long, she had to stop. As one friend ran down to get help, a number of other hikers, all strangers, attempted to help Wedelstedt down the narrow trail by walking on either side of her to support her weight, but that proved slow and dangerous. One man “was so close to the ledge I could see rocks tumbling down from where he stepped on them,” Wedelstedt says.
Finally, one hiker, Matt, asked her, “How do you feel about a fireman’s carry?” Before she knew it, he had lifted her over his shoulder. “Now, I’m not tiny,” says Wedelstedt, a former college basketball star. Matt clearly couldn’t carry her all the way down by himself. So six hikers and one of her friends took turns carrying her while she tried to make light of a difficult situation: “I told them I wanted to meet a lot of guys, but this isn’t the way I wanted to do it.” Three hours and two rock-strewn miles later, this human conveyor belt finally met the medics, who took Wedelstedt to the hospital.
She has mostly recovered from her ill-fated hike, but Wedelstedt knows she’ll never shake one thing from that day: the memory of the band of strangers who came to her rescue. “I’m still in awe.”