Hikers lost near Aspen | PostIndependent.com

Hikers lost near Aspen

Rescuers searched into the night Monday and early Tuesday morning for a Carbondale woman and three 9-year-old boys who didn’t return from a mid-morning hike near Independence Pass.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Lemke said the four left mid- to late-morning for a hike on the Lost Man Loop and were expected back around 3 p.m. A parent notified authorities just before 6 p.m. that the group hadn’t returned.

Several Mountain Rescue Aspen search teams and a scent dog combed the 8.8-mile Lost Man Loop Trail, a partial loop with two trailheads several miles west of Independence Pass on Highway 82, and surrounding areas.

Just before midnight, crews were focusing efforts with the search dog along the Midway Trail, which can be accessed from the Lost Man Campground. Search teams were following what they believed to be tracks made by some of the boys’ hiking boots and sneakers as well as footprints from a small dog thought to be with the hikers. Earlier in the evening, teams found a water bottle they believed belonged to the group.

Lemke said multiple forks off the trails complicated the search, giving the missing group multiple “avenues” to follow and requiring more manpower to form search teams.

As late as 10:30 p.m., searchers had found no evidence to suggest anyone in the party was injured.

Weather reports predicted up to several inches of snow above 10,000 feet after midnight Monday. Lost Man Loop covers elevations around 11,000 feet, cresting 12,000 feet at its highest points. The Midway Trail, which travels from the lower Lost Man trailhead to the Hunter Creek Valley, is also close to 11,000 feet.

Although officials didn’t find the weather report overly daunting from the searchers’ perspective, Lemke said they were concerned for the “comfort” of a group of hikers lost in the cold, dark wilderness.

“They’re young children, and they’re likely to be scared,” he said. “The parents are obviously extremely concerned for the children.”

If search teams hadn’t found the missing hikers by daylight, a plane was to begin searching from the air, weather permitting, and plans were made to bring in more search dogs.

Lemke asked that other hikers and would-be volunteers steer clear of the Lost Man Loop and Midway Trail areas as additional traffic could frustrate search efforts, he said.

“We appreciate the spirit of good Samaritans,” he said, but “if we have anyone freelancing out there, it really does more harm than good.”

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