Another hiker died on Capitol Peak near Aspen this weekend, marking the fifth death this summer on the 14er |

Another hiker died on Capitol Peak near Aspen this weekend, marking the fifth death this summer on the 14er

The Aspen Times
The 14,130-foot Capitol Peak is in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area and part of the White River National Forest.
Anna Stonehouse / The Aspen Times |

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 they 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 mobilized a field team as well as air resources from Flight for Life in Summit County, Todaro reported. Just after noon Sunday 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. Sunday. Release of his name is pending notification of his family.

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. Memorial services for the couple were held this weekend in Aspen.

“MRA is recovering another body from Capitol right now,” Glenwood Springs resident Chris Hagler wrote on the Facebook page. “This is another horrible sad story. Stay on the route and do not descend North Face! We are losing people scaling straight across K2 to Knife Edge instead of descending to stay on route then ascending back up to knife edge and also trying to descend North Face. Our last 3 climbers perished on North Face.”

Two other people died on Capitol Peak earlier this summer in separate incidents. 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.

Since 2003, nine people have died climbing the fourteener.

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