Man dies in Maroon Peak fall near Aspen |

Man dies in Maroon Peak fall near Aspen

Maroon Peak as seen from North Maroon Peak in September 2018 near Aspen.
Jason Auslander / The Aspen Times

The body of a 61-year-old man who died Wednesday on Maroon Peak was helicoptered out of the backcountry late Thursday afternoon, an official said.

The identity of the man, who was not from the Aspen area, was not available Thursday night pending notification of next of kin, said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Quinton Wheatley. The death marked the first casualty of the summer climbing season.

Pitkin County emergency dispatchers were first alerted at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday to the situation by an “S.O.S. activation of a hand-held beacon at approximately 12,600 feet on the standard (climbing) route of Maroon Peak,” according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. Further investigation revealed a climber in a three-person climbing party had fallen about 200 feet and was dead, the release states.

The “two surviving members of the climbing party were still on the mountain and had attempted to resuscitate the fallen climber but were unsuccessful in their efforts,” the release states.

A fourth member of the climbing party had declined to accompany the others on the Maroon Peak summit, but was in contact with his colleagues by walkie-talkie, said Jesse Steindler, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol captain. That man was able to walk out and alert authorities to the situation around 7 p.m., he said.

Five Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers entered the field about 9 p.m., following the standard Maroon Peak route, and encountered the two survivors two hours later on the trail, according to the news release.

“The two climbers, having started their climb approximately 22 hours earlier, were exhausted and dehydrated but uninjured,” the release states.

The two men and MRA volunteers arrived at the Maroon Bells parking lot about 2 a.m.

Three more MRA climbers left the parking lot about 6 a.m. Thursday and located the body four hours later. They placed the man’s body in a body bag and were able to slide it to the valley floor at 11,307 feet, where a helicopter from the state’s Fire Prevention and Control department secured it about 3:40 p.m. with a “long-line” and flew it to the parking lot, according to the release. From there, the man’s body was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital.

Pitkin County Coroner Dr. Steve Ayers said no information about the man was available Thursday night.

Maroon Peak — also known as South Maroon Peak — is 14,163 feet high.

Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers have been in the field since Thursday morning and were waiting Thursday afternoon for a state firefighting helicopter to arrive at the peak outside Aspen to retrieve the 61-year-old man’s body, said Jesse Steindler, patrol captain with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

The man, who is not an Aspen local, was climbing the standard route on the peak – which is also known as South Maroon Peak – with three other men when he fell about 200 feet, Steindler said. The accident occurred at about 12,600 feet, he said. The Maroon Peak summit is 14,163 feet. 

A fourth member of the party who remained behind and did not climb the peak was in contact with his friends through walkie talkies and hiked out of the wilderness about 7 p.m. Wednesday to report the incident, Steindler said. The other two men later hiked out about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, he said.

MRA volunteers entered the field early Thursday morning, located the body and prepared it for transport, Steindler said. The man’s body was located in a steep, rocky section of the mountain where a lot of snow is present, he said. 

The man’s hometown and specifics of how he fell were not immediately available.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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