Backcountry skiers find body of missing hiker | VailDaily.com

Backcountry skiers find body of missing hiker

Eagle County — Back country skiers found a body that authorities believe is an Indiana man who went missing during a hut trip last month near Vail. The body is likely that of Dr. James McGrogan, although the Eagle County Sheriff's Office is waiting for the county coroner to make a positive identification. However, McGrogan was the only one lost in that area, and his gear was the same as that which McGrogan's friends said he was carrying when he became separated during a back country trip to the Eiseman Hut, authorities said. McGrogan, 39, of Chesterton, Ind., went missing on March 14. He was an emergency room doctor in his home town. Booth Falls is located approximately 4 and a half miles east of the trail that leads to the Eiseman Hut. Rescue crews of 110 people total spent more than 1,000 man hours scouring the 18-squaremile area. National Guard helicopter pilots spent 30 hours searching from the air. McGrogan's three friends started the search when they reached the hut and realized he was not around. One of the most frustrating things, searchers said, was that they could see Vail from the search area. The terrain is rugged where McGrogan disappeared, they said. The search was called off after lasting five days with no clues. He loved snowboarding and adventure, his mother told reporters. When he was reported missing, his family came to the area to help with the search. He and his wife are the parents of two small children. He and his family had recently moved from Wisconsin to his hometown for his job with a local hospital. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Search suspended for missing Indiana man

EAGLE COUNTY — The search for a missing Indiana man lost during a hut trip has been called off, said the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. A storm that blew through the area Tuesday forced searchers to suspend their efforts around noon. There is no plan to send crews back into the 18-square-mile area, said Jessie Mosher with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. Dr. James McGrogan disappeared Friday afternoon after he became separated from his three friends as they were headed to the Eiseman Hut, north of Vail. McGrogan had a large pack with food, water and a full compliment of backcountry gear. When his friends arrived at the hut, he wasn't there. "They realized they had to go back and try to find him," his father, Bill McGrogan, told Kelli Stopczynski, a reporter with WSBT TV in South Bend, Ind. "After an exhaustive search lasting five days, with no clues to locate James McGrogan, search and rescue efforts have now turned to a recovery mission," said Jessie Mosher, public information officer with the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. "The thoughts and prayers of the Eagle County Sheriff's Office and Vail Mountain Rescue Group go out to the McGrogan family." You can see Vail One of the most frustrating things, searchers said, was that they could see Vail from the search area. The terrain is rugged where McGrogan disappeared, they said. That first night, Friday, they spotted what they thought were his tracks, but as they scoured the area they found nothing. The area is covered in about 8 feet of snow and is about 11,400 feet above sea level, Smith said. Every set of tracks they followed led to nothing more than another disappointment, searchers said. Search crews topped 110 people, who spent more than 1,000 man hours on the ground. National Guard helicopter pilots from the High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, headquartered at the Eagle County Regional Airport, spent another 30 hours searching from the air. Helicopters cost $5,000 an hour, but no one ever gets charged for rescue efforts, either on the ground or from the air, said Dan Smith with the Vail Mountain Rescue Group. In 2013, HAATS pilots flew to the rescue a record 28 times. They directly saved 14 lives. Dr. McGrogan McGrogan, 39, is a 1993 graduate of Chesterton Indiana High School and a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is an emergency room doctor in Mishawaka, Ind., in northern Indiana just west of South Bend. "It took him three times to get into med school," Bill McGrogan said. "Finally, the third time they took him. And he's just always been like that. All through school he wanted to be a doctor, and he's a good doctor. He'd help you in a heartbeat. If you were hurt, he'd be right there. That's why he's a doctor." He loved snowboarding and adventure, his mother told reporters. When he was reported missing, his family came to the area to help with the search. He and his wife are the parents of two small children. He and his family had recently returned from Wisconsin to his hometown for his job with a local hospital. Groups assisting in the search include the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Alpine Rescue Group, Larimer County Search and Rescue Group, Summit County Rescue Group, Grand County Search and Rescue Group, and the Salvation Army.

Man’s body found 1.5 miles from trailhead

VAIL — James McGrogan could probably see help from the spot where he fell to his death. McGrogan, 39, was a mile and a half east from the Booth Falls trailhead, where his body was found at the bottom of an ice chute. But he was four and a half miles east of the trail he was supposed to be on, the one leading up to Eiseman Hut, where he was headed with three of his friends. He and his friends were headed up Spraddle Creek toward Eiseman when he got separated from them. Somehow, he got off of the trail leading up to Eiseman Hut. Instead of turning around and following his tracks back, he kept going. McGrogan was carrying a split board, a snowboard that divides lengthwise, and was wearing the boots that went with it. Slippery Slope He climbed a ridge and as he descended the other side, it appears he slipped on some ice, fell and died. Authorities say he most likely died instantly. Authorities say they're not sure of the spot from which he fell, but he wasn't more than a mile and a half from the Booth Falls trailhead. But it was an impossible mile and a half; he was in deep snow, 8 feet deep in some spots. One of the most frustrating things, searchers said, was that they could see Vail from their search area. You can also see town, or parts of it, from where McGrogan's body was found, authorities said. McGrogan went missing March 14. When his three friends arrived at Eiseman Hut and he wasn't there, they immediately began searching for him. They contacted the Eagle County Sheriff's Office early that afternoon. Vail Mountain Rescue and other groups immediately launched their search. They spent more than 1,000 hours scouring an 18-square mile area, but that's not where McGrogan was. Storms forced the search to be called off after five days. McGrogan's body was spotted midday Thursday by three local backcountry skiers headed up that trail. A crew of searchers recovered the body late Thursday. Eagle County coroner Kara Bettis confirmed Friday morning that the body was McGrogan's. Results from an autopsy to determine cause of death should be available next week, said the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. McGrogan is a 1993 graduate of Chesterton Indiana High School and a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is an emergency room doctor in Mishawaka, Ind., in northern Indiana just west of South Bend. He and his wife are the parents of two young children. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Search continues near Vail for missing hiker

EAGLE COUNTY — Searchers are scouring an 18-square-mile area trying to find an Indiana doctor who disappeared Friday during a hut trip with three friends. Dr. James McGrogan disappeared Friday afternoon during a trip to the Eiseman Hut, north of Vail. Police say he separated from the group that afternoon. When he left the group, McGrogan had a large pack with food, water, medical supplies, a GPS, sleeping bag, avalanche beacon, warm clothing and other tools, his friends told police. When the group reached their destination, the Eiseman Hut, McGrogan wasn't there. They called the Eagle County Sheriff's Office about 5:30 p.m. Friday and searchers immediately headed for the area, said local law enforcement officials. They searched Saturday and Sunday. Before resuming their search Monday morning, searchers had logged more than 700 man hours and 24 hours of helicopter work, according to Vail Mountain Rescue. Searchers said the weather was hampering efforts, adding that 18 square miles is a huge area to search. The area stretches from Middle Creek to Booth Creek to behind Bald Mountain. About McGrogan McGrogan, 39, is a native of Chesterton, Ind., located in northern Indiana just west of South Bend. He recently returned to the area with his wife and their two children. He had started a new job in the emergency department of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, Ind., his mother, Arlene McGrogan, of Chesterton told The Munster (Indiana) Times. He previously lived in southern Wisconsin where he worked as an emergency room physician in Beloit, the newspaper reported. Arlene McGrogan said her son "was always adventurous" and likes to snowboard. She said the hiking trip to the Eiseman Hut was his first. McGrogan is a 1993 graduate of Chesterton High School and a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine. About the searchers Search crews have numbered more than 50 people, along with two Blackhawk helicopters from the High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, headquartered at the Eagle County Regional Airport. This past year, HAATS pilots flew to the rescue a record 28 times. They directly saved 14 lives. Of those missions, eight were casualty evacuations. HAATS doesn't charge for rescues, and neither does Vail Mountain Rescue, said Dan Smith, with Vail Mountain Rescue. In Mountain Rescue no one gets paid. "We do it because we love it," Smith said. Groups assisting in the search include the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Alpine Rescue Group, Larimer County Search and Rescue Group, Summit County Rescue Group, Grand County Search and Rescue Group, and the Salvation Army. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Search continues for hiker last seen near Vail

VAIL — Authorities in Eagle County are continuing their search for a hiker who was separated from his group and hasn't been seen since Friday afternoon. Fellow hikers said James McGrogan decided to continue ahead of his three friends during a break on a hut trip to the Eiseman Hut, north of Vail. McGrogan had a large pack with food, water, medical supplies, a GPS and other tools. Crews from several agencies have been searching for McGrogan, including two helicopters. Those efforts were unsuccessful as of Sunday evening.

Severe weather hampers Vail-area search for missing man

EAGLE COUNTY — Tuesday's severe weather forced searchers to suspend their efforts to find an Indiana man lost since Friday afternoon. Dr. James McGrogan disappeared after he became separated from his three friends as they were headed to the Eiseman Hut, north of Vail. When he left the group, McGrogan had a large pack with food, water, and a full compliment of back country gear. When the group reached the hut, McGrogan wasn't there. They called the Eagle County Sheriff's Office about 5:30 p.m. Friday and searchers immediately headed for the area, said local law enforcement officials. They've been scouring an 18-square-mile area since then, said Dan Smith with the Vail Mountain Rescue Group. The area is covered in about 8 feet of snow, and is about 11,400 feet above sea level, Smith said. So far, search crews have spent more than 1,000 man hours and 30 helicopter hours in their efforts. It costs about $5,000 per blade hour, but no one ever gets charged for rescue efforts, Smith said. The helicopter searches operate through the Colorado National Guard's High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS), based at the Eagle County Regional Airport. Search and rescue crews have included the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Vail Mountain Rescue Group, Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site, Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Alpine Rescue Group, Larimer County Search and Rescue Group, Summit County Rescue Group, Grand County Search and Rescue Group, and the Salvation Army. The search will resume Wednesday morning. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Week In Review

Aspen Murder Arrest A third suspect was arrested in connection with the death of Aspen native Nancy Pfister. Katherine M. Carpenter, 56, was booked into the Pitkin County Jail. Charged up The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the cities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, and Colorado Mountain College announced their plan to install charging stations for electric vehicles in coming months. Two walk away from plane crash Two people aboard a small private plane walked away after the plane crashed in deep snow in far western Garfield County. The pilot was able to get to a nearby Encana well pad and called 911 from the facility, letting authorities know that both he and his passenger were uninjured. Devils dominate The Eagle Valley High School boys and girls track teams swept the Avid Invitational in Montrose, proving that the teams will have a promising season. Epic delay When Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced the company's "Epic Discovery" summer recreation proposal for Vail Mountain, he said it could take 12 to 18 months to get the required approvals from the U.S. Forest Service. Now, more than 18 months after that announcement, it looks like the Forest Service's first record of decision on the proposals may come about two years after the announcement. Lost hiker Authorities in Eagle County are continuing their search for a hiker who was separated from his group. Fellow hikers said James McGrogan decided to continue ahead of his three friends during a break on a hut trip to the Eiseman Hut, north of Vail. McGrogan had a large pack with food, water, medical supplies, a GPS and other tools. Crews from several agencies have been searching for McGrogan, including two helicopters. Those efforts were unsuccessful as of Wednesday morning.

Last week’s 10 most-read stories on VailDaily.com

What stories hit it big on VailDaily.com last week?Here’s a preview: Early snow falls in Vail | Popular Vail-area backcountry hut burns | Longtime Vail local dies in Intermountain | Vail Resorts: Epic pass up, profits down | AND MUCH MOREFrom the joyous to the tragic, the VailDaily.com Top 10 is a weekly recap of our best local stories. Check out the complete list and email your favorite to mzalaznick@vaildaily.com 10.Vail’s Solaris on pace for 2010Project marketed as the new center of Vail Village set to open next summer 9.Eagle River Station: End is in sightVoters likely to have final say on shopping center; town board schedules final votes on Eagle River Station8.Vail Valley: Missing person located in EdwardsVail Valley woman was missing from home for about an hour-and-a-half7.Bear encounters increase as summer ends in Vail ValleyWhen bruins and humans converge in Vail Valley, it’s usually the animals who pay the price6.Vail Resorts: Epic pass up, profits downSeason passes selling well; lodging revenue dropped more than expected, Vail Resorts says5.Vail Valley: Who controls Battle Mtn. resort?Big projects, ‘private equity’ firms can be a good match4.Dump truck driver dies in Vail Valley wreck49-year-old man killed when his truck rolled over and slid into a grove of trees on Squaw Creek Road3.Longtime Vail local dies in IntermountainFamily, friends say Vail’s Peter Franke was very friendly, always telling jokes2.Popular Vail-area backcountry hut burnsCause of Vail-area hut fire unknown; Fowler-Hilliard Hut was busy in winter and summer1.Early snow falls in VailMore rain, snow due in Vail but first Colorado ski resorts won’t open for at least another month

Team recovers skier’s body from Aspen avalanche

ASPEN – A search team has recovered the body of a skier reported missing Tuesday in the backcountry south of Aspen. The individual was found Wednesday by a canine search team in the debris field of a large avalanche. The victim’s name has not been released, pending notification of relatives, but the individual is reportedly a local man. About 18 members of Mountain Rescue Aspen, plus three canine search teams and a helicopter responded as part of the search and recovery effort. Mountain Rescue alerted the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office shortly before 9 a.m. that the skier’s body had been found. The body was recovered from the debris field of a large slide, described by Mountain Rescue as about 150 yards long and 20 to 30 feet wide at the bottom. The body was airlifted from the site by DBS Helicopters and taken to Aspen Valley Hospital at 9:45 a.m., where a member of the county coroner’s office was waiting. The skier was reported missing Tuesday by others in the party of eight. The avalanche occurred at about 4 p.m. near the Lindley Hut, south of Ashcroft in the Castle Creek Valley. Authorities said the seven other skiers in the group tried but failed to find the missing person, and managed to get through to the sheriff’s office with a 911 call at about 6 p.m. The group was made up of experienced backcountry skiers, according to authorities. The hut is part of the Alfred Braun Hut system. It’s located at an elevation of about 10,480 feet, about 16 miles south of Aspen. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated the avalanche danger in the Aspen area as considerable on Wednesday, down from a high rating on Monday. On Tuesday, the rating was considerable at most aspects and elevations, but was still rated high on south- to east-facing slopes. Also Tuesday, a snowboarder triggered an avalanche on Richmond Ridge, off the back of Aspen Mountain, according the CAIC report. Rescue crews brought avalanche dogs to the site, but no one was found in the debris. The slide was more than a foot deep and about 100 feet wide, according to the report. This article will be updated.

Skiers caught in blizzard spend nights in snow cave

ASPEN – A Carbondale couple spent two cold, wet nights in a snow cave over the weekend, spurring a search by Aspen rescuers before the two individuals reached the hut that was their destination on Sunday. The duo, described as experienced backcountry skiers, were en route to meet four companions at the Goodwin-Greene Hut, south of Aspen, on Friday evening when they became lost in a blizzard. One of them was able to send a text message to his brother indicating they were lost, but planned to dig a snow cave and “hunker down,” according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The names of the skiers were not released. On Saturday morning, the skiers sent another text indicating they were holding their position, followed by another message at about noon seeking a weather report. When no further communication followed, the brother notified authorities and a Mountain Rescue Aspen team was activated, according to the sheriff’s office. Rescuers sent out a team of two snowmobilers Saturday afternoon in an attempt to locate the couple. The team reported near-zero visibility and high winds, and took shelter in a cabin about a mile short of the hut before returning to town. There was no further word from the missing skiers on Saturday. On Sunday at 6 a.m., Mountain Rescue deployed two teams to resume the search. One team of four snowmobilers headed to the hut via Richmond Ridge, off the summit of Aspen Mountain, while a team of four backcountry skiers was sent toward the hut via Express Creek Road, which splits off from Castle Creek Road south of Aspen. A text message received by family members after 7 a.m. on Sunday indicated the couple was OK and headed to the hut. Rescuers skiing toward the hut were summoned back to town, while the snowmobile team continued to the Goodwin-Greene to make contact with the hut group. The overdue skiers were tired, but in good spirits, the sheriff’s office reported in a press release issued Monday. Rescuers returned to town and the hut group skied out via Richmond Ridge rather than taking their originally planned route out the Express Creek drainage because of high avalanche danger. The Goodwin-Greene Hut is part of the Braun and Friends Hut System, and is managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. It is located near timberline, at 11,680 feet, at the head of the Difficult Creek drainage, about 12 miles south of the Aspen Mountain Ski Area.