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Cold and long spring leads to less early season search and rescue missions in Sublette County 

Search and rescue training mission.
Tip Top Search and Rescue
Tip Top Search and Rescue serves the Sublette County area.

The search and rescue agency in Sublette County has had a busy July so far; however, it was a slow start to the season due to the long, cold spring weather.

Tip Top Search and Rescue is a volunteer team that rescues people who are hurt or missing in Sublette County, often deep in the mountains, that other emergency services do not have the capability to help.

John Kochever, a senior search and rescue member, said this month there have already been several rescue missions, one being a climber who fell more than 50 feet in the Wind River Range.

“We're beginning to see more people into the backcountry now that the snow has receded and runoff on the upper elevation, streams have subsided a bit so people can actually get across some of these stream crossings in the backcountry that wouldn't be occurring earlier in the year,” Kochever said.

He added that this year’s wet, cold spring led to higher water levels in the mountains. It was about two weeks later than normal that people could access the backcountry, meaning less folks getting hurt and needing rescue.

Kochever said when going into the backcountry, specifically the Wind River Range, taking a partner and telling someone else the plan is key. That way if a person goes missing, the search and rescue team will know where to look.

“It's a big place in the Winds,” he said. “There's not a lot of access points. It's very different than a lot of the other mountain ranges in the western U.S. with a lack of access.”

Kochever said July and August are typically busy months for rescue missions. In 2020 they went on 40 missions over the summer. So far in the first week of July this year there were three missions.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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