Staufer endures summer scare, back coaching Lady RoughRiders
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Jennifer Staufer is an avid hiker in the offseason, but this past summer, found herself climbing a much higher challenge that had her starting out in panic mode, but ultimately, has a happy ending.
Staufer, who coaches the Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders 12U team, was hiking Crestone Peak in July with her hiking partner, Adam Vonnahme. The pair ascended to the summit and was on their way down when Staufer fell.
“I wasn’t wearing spikes, the snow was soft, I slipped and fell and my ice axe did not hold,” said Staufer. “I ended up in a waterfall falling about 150 feet and I had been tossed and turned so many times that I had to take a minute to figure out where I was. The waterfall ran a total of 1,500 feet down the mountain and I was very lucky that I had just suddenly stopped.
“My hiking partner was able to help me out of the water and call for rescue. Then the long wait begins and you started thinking how you might die out there, not make it home and things like that. I just started thinking about friends and family and to add to the drama, I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first child (with her husband, Justen). Luckily, Adam had a SPOT device and cell service and called 911, but it was more than seven hours until help arrived.”
After a three-hour and 1,500-foot litter belay, Staufer was then rescued by the Colorado National Guard HAATS team in a UH-60 Blackhawk at 1:00 a.m. and transferred to a medical helicopter. From there, she was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. After undergoing chest tube insertion for a collapsed lung and knee surgery, she spent eight days in the hospital. She had also suffered broken ribs, fractured patella and pelvis, a broken right foot and major bruising, but had received the great news that her unborn child was unharmed and that she had no brain or spinal damage.
“I had read a book about people disappearing or getting injured on mountains and you try to learn from those people’s mistakes and make split-second decisions,” Staufer said. “You never expect that it could be you sitting out on that mountain. I remember waiting for help and thinking I should be dead.”
Once news broke to the local hockey community, Staufer said the support for her was “simply amazing.”
“I was blown away – everyone really came together and took care of me,” said a still-emotional Staufer. “People visited, brought us meals, and donated money and a signed, framed jersey from the Lady RoughRiders to the Search and Rescue teams that saved my life. It was all just incredible and I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Not able to skate until the baby is born, Staufer said it’s been hard to stay off the ice. As a founding member of the Lady RoughRiders, she admitted it was difficult to think about walking away, but instead, for the first few months of the season, she watched practice and ran drills for her team from the bench.
And with the growth in girls hockey in Colorado building each season, Staufer wants to be a part of that trend.
“Our goal for the Lady RoughRiders has always been to get these girls playing at a young age and teach them, develop them and keep them in the program for the duration of their youth career,” said Staufer. “We definitely have the ability to keep growing in the northern part of the state and to see some of these associations working together for these girls, it’s actually pretty humbling to witness.
“We have a great thing going with the Lady RoughRiders and we keep growing. This is where I want to be.”
— Matt Mackinder