Body of hiker Russell Jacobs recovered on Keyhole Route of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
On Sunday, Sept. 18, recovery operations were completed for a deceased man, 25-year-old Russell Jacobs of Westminster, on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The recovery was completed near the Keyhole Route above the Ledges. Rocky Mountain National Park’s Search and Rescue Team contracted with Trans Aero helicopter to assist with prepositioning park rangers and aerial recovery operations. Jacobs’ body was recovered at approximately 5 p.m. Sunday night by helicopter and transferred to the Boulder County Coroner’s Office.
Late Friday afternoon, Sept. 16, Jacobs contacted a friend via cell phone, telling them he was lost and that the weather was deteriorating rapidly. Jacobs was unprepared for winter conditions or to spend an unplanned night at elevations above 13,000 feet. This information was relayed to park rangers, who were briefly able to contact Jacobs via text message to ascertain his location. They learned he was going to try to move toward the Agnes Vaille Shelter. That was their last communication.
Search and rescue members began searching in the Boulder Field and Keyhole area of Longs Peak on Friday afternoon. Search efforts were hampered by accumulating snow, ice, 35 mph winds, below-freezing temperatures, nightfall and bitter wind chill. Rangers were able to reach the Agnes Vaille Shelter but could not Jacobs. The search team set up shelter in the Boulder Field overnight, in case he was still attempting to reach the trailhead. Searchers in the field reported snow and sleet continuing through the night in the search area.
The search resumed prior to sunrise on Saturday morning amid continued winter-like conditions. A clearing in the weather allowed for Northern Colorado Med Evac air ambulance to do a flyover and look for anyone in distress, while rangers combed through the Boulder Field. A group of hikers ultimately found Jacobs’ body approximately 80 feet above the Ledges.
The Keyhole route is 16 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet. Park beta describes it as a climb that crosses enormous sheer vertical rock faces, often with falling rocks, requiring scrambling, where an unroped fall would likely be fatal. The route has narrow ledges and steep cliffs.
For most of the year, climbing Longs Peak requires winter mountaineering experience and the knowledge and use of specialized equipment, says the description. “Disregard for the mountain environment any time of year has meant danger, injury and even death,” it says.
For more information about Longs Peak or updates to the investigation, visit NPS.gov/romo/index.htm The Boulder County Coroner’s office has not yet released the cause of Jacobs’ death.
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