Climbers spend tiring night on Maroon Peak
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Two Front Range men were “very tired” but unhurt after unintentionally spending Saturday night outdoors after successfully ascending Maroon Peak near Aspen.
Lyons resident Thomas Wood and Boulder resident Robert O’Rourke, both in their 50s, are experienced climbers of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks and were equipped for an emergency night out, said Joe Bauer, patrol director for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department.
The men reportedly placed a call to one of their sons from the top of the peak at 11 a.m. on Saturday, asking the son to call for help if they did not return by 8 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m., the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department received a phone call reporting the two men missing.
At daybreak Sunday, three teams of searchers from Aspen Mountain Rescue were deployed, along with a spotter plane. Other members of Aspen Mountain Rescue convened to wait for assignments in case the rescue became a prolonged event.
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Rescue teams from the all-volunteer organization are never sent out at night “unless it’s absolutely a matter of life and death,” Bauer said.
The rescue teams reportedly started from different locations, trying to cover the area where they believed the men to be.
Bauer said rescuers were hoping the men hadn’t fallen.
“Usually when we get rescues into that area, more times than not, someone has fallen and either died or injured themselves,” he said.
The sheriff’s department was lining up a helicopter to do a more thorough search, thinking the men might have fallen, when it received a call from a hiker who had contacted the two climbers on the Snowmass Lake Trail.
The men walked out on their own shortly thereafter.
According to Bauer, the climbers had decided to take a different path down because they were concerned about descending on the loose rock they had encountered on their ascent.
“I think it ended up being a lot farther than what they thought they were hiking out on,” said Bauer.
The men reportedly ascended the Bell Cord Couloir and descended the standard south-ridge route.