Fifth climber dies on Capitol Peak, fell off 600-foot cliff ban
A 21-year-old man got separated from his climbing partner after a dispute Saturday on how to descend from the Capitol Peak and later fell 600 to 700 feet to his death, Pitkin County authorities said Sunday night in a news release.
The man’s dead makes it the fifth fatality of the summer on the 14,131-foot mountain.
Deputy Anthony Todaro said the department received a call Sunday morning from Brandon Wilhelm of Pine who said he and his friend hit the summit about 3 p.m. Saturday. On the descent the became separated at the “Knife Edge” section when they argued about the route.
“It was reported the overdue party decided to turn to his left and take a direct line toward the lake, even though he was told there was a cliff band below,” according to the news release. “This person failed to return to camp that evening.”
Mountain Rescue Aspen mobilize a field team as well as air resources from Flight for Life in Summit County, Todaro reported. Just after noon a foot team deployed from the helicopter made contact with an unconscious, unresponsive male subject.
“It was determined this individual had injuries that were consistent with a fall from the cliff band above and not able to sustain life. No life support efforts were made,” according to the release. “The cliff band directly above this area are approximately 600-700 feet high.”
The climber’s body was returned to the airport by rescue teams by 8:30 p.m. Release of his name is pending notification of next of kin.
In the news release, the Sheriff’s Office stressed the importance of being prepared.
“There is not an alternate route down the North Face of Capitol Peak unless you have extensive climbing experience and all the necessary ropes and gear associated with high angle mountain climbing,” Deputy Torado wrote. “If there was a safe shortcut, it would be the standard route.”
The man died in the same place an Aspen couple fell to their deaths a week ago; the bodies of Ryan Marcil, 26, and Carlin Brightwell, 27, were recovered Aug. 22. They were discovered in an area below the Knife Edge, a 100-foot stretch of narrow ridge with precipitous drops on either side, Jesse Steindler, a commander with the Sheriff’s Office, said last week.
“I think they possibly sought an alternate route that skirts around the Knife Edge on the north side (of the ridge),” Steindler said last week. “That makes the most sense.”
It’s unclear why they might have taken a different route, though the Knife Edge can be intimidating. It’s also not clear how far the couple fell or from where, he said, though it’s obvious they did not survive the fall, which was at least 200 feet.
Two other people died on Capitol Peak earlier this summer in separate incidents. Since 2003, nine people have died climbing the fourteener.
Jake Lord, 25, fell nearly 300 feet on July 15, and Jeremy Shull died Aug. 6 after falling from the Knife Edge area; both men were from Parker, Colorado.
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