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Search and Rescue Called to Save Four College Students Trapped in the Red River Gorge During Winter Storm

Four college students are now safe after becoming trapped in the wilderness during a recent winter storm. According to the Powell County Sheriff’s Office, the four students called for help Monday morning in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

The area is known for its rugged terrain and as one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country.

red river gorge rescue
The campsite where the students were trapped. (Source: Kentucky State Police)

According to rescue officials, the four students from nearby Asbury College camped overnight and underestimated the weather conditions. The group spent the prior night on top of an area called Courthouse Rock.” When they woke up, they determined it was too dangerous to climb down.

Coordinating a Rescue in the Red River Gorge

After the initial call, it took the search and rescue team, along with the Kentucky State Police, a few hours to coordinate how they would get to the group. Eventually, they determined a helicopter may be the best option.

Winter storm rescue in Kentucky
(Source: Powell County Search & Rescue)

The helicopter launched just after 2:00 in the afternoon, more than four hours after the initial call.

“This call was one of the most dangerous rescues ever attempted in the Gorge,” wrote the Powell County Search & Rescue on a social media post. “Climbing Courthouse Rock is extremely treacherous, even when conditions are favorable. Add in several inches of snow, icy rock faces, and a dash of wind; you have the perfect recipe for tragedy. Helicopters are inherently dangerous. When that is deemed the safest option, you know you’ve found yourself in a potentially life or death situation.”

A helicopter was used for the rescue in the Red River Gorge
(Source: Kentucky State Police)

Fortunately, the mission was successful, and everyone was safe. The helicopter brought the four students to a nearby fire station, where EMS checked on them. Besides being a little cold, rescue crews say the students are in good shape.

The Powell County Search and Rescue said this about being prepared: “When planning a winter trip to the Red River Gorge, be cognizant of the weather, road and trail conditions. Think about where you plan on hiking or camping and prepare an evacuation plan should conditions change.”

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