In the Backcountry

Big Hands, Big Hearts dives into the effects of backcountry tragedies

The nonprofit focused on mountain safety education hosts a panel at 5Point Film Festival

By Barbara Platts April 20, 2018

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When Bobby L’Heureux’s good friend Jarod Wetherell died climbing the Maroon Bells in October 2014, he wanted to throw some kind of event that would help exemplify the climber’s wonderful spirit. He named it Splash of Lime, and it was a hit, partially because of the support for Wetherell, but also because, as backcountry deaths have become more common, the event resonated.

“The idea came that this is going to be a constant problem in Colorado,” L’Heureux says. “People are going to come to the backcountry to hike 14ers, and they need to be knowledgeable.”

And thus Big Heart Big Hands was born. Based in the Vail Valley, the nonprofit raises funds for several mountain rescue organizations, as well as people who have been rescued and their families. It also works to bring awareness to the importance of backcountry safety education. Recently, Big Heart Big Hands also started providing counseling support for those impacted by mountain incidents.

“It’s not just about the person who got rescued,” L’Heureux says. “It’s also about the wife, the husband, the people who are left behind.”

Big Heart Big Hands hosts a panel titled "Trauma, Loss, and Resilience in the Backcountry" this weekend as part of 5Point Film Festival's new Talks series. L’Heureux will moderate and be joined by four panelists who bring different perspectives on backcountry rescue missions and their impact: David Richardson, who was with Wetherell on Maroon Bells and survived two nights in a snowstorm; Jessica Heaney, a certified emotionally focused therapist who is working with the nonprofit; Krissy Sprinkle-Timlin, who lost her husband in one of Colorado’s deadliest avalanches; and Michael Ferrara, a rescuer for more than 30 years in Aspen.

L’Heureux acknowledges that this is a particularly hard time for the Roaring Fork Valley community after Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteer John Galvin died in an avalanche a week and a half ago. “I want to speak to how people react to trauma. How do we switch blame into compassion?” he asks. “We all come together when this happens, but what’s the aftermath? How can we guide the situation a bit better?”

The panel discussion takes place Saturday, April 21, from 10:20–11:50 a.m. at True Nature's new kiva. All 5Point Talks are free and open to the public.

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