Deputy: Loose boulder caused Capitol Peak climber’s fall, death
ASPEN — A 25-year-old man was attempting to make his way over the top of a large boulder on the way up Capitol Peak on Saturday when it came loose and he fell to his death, an official said Monday.
Jake Lord of Parker and his climbing partner were not on the standard route up Capitol Peak when he fell Saturday morning, but they were not far from it, said Deputy Jesse Steindler, the incident commander for the rescue operation. The two men were not rock climbing with ropes, he said.
Climbers on the standard Capitol Peak route from the Capitol Creek basin come to a point at the bottom of a couloir that can confuse those not familiar with the standard route, Steindler said. From that vantage, it appears as if going straight up the couloir is the proper route, which is what Lord and his partner, Peter Doro of Highlands Ranch, attempted, the deputy said.
“It’s not the established route,” Steindler said, “but it’s becoming more and more established because more and more people are using it.”
The standard route deviates from that point and circumvents a snowfield before heading to the ridge that leads to the top, he said.
Alex Burchetta, a commander with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said Monday that Mountain Rescue volunteers told him Lord and Doro were on the ridge between Capitol and Mount Daly, and specifically the ridge between Daly Saddle and K2. The ridge is not on the most commonly traveled Capitol Peak route, and most climbers drop into the basin and circle farther east or remain at the same elevation, which crosses the path where Lord’s body was found, Burchetta said.
“Not as many (climbers) go up to the ridge he fell off,” Burchetta said in an email.
Lord was above Doro when he attempted to cross the boulder — which Doro later estimated to be about 200 pounds — and it gave way, Steindler said.
“He was hugging the boulder,” Steindler said. “And it pushed him over backward.”
Lord fell between 160 and 330 feet — approximately 50 to 100 meters — to a point below Doro and out of his sight, he said. Doro climbed down to his friend and immediately began CPR to try to revive him. Another climber named Reese also stopped to help resuscitate Lord, Steindler said.
Lord appeared to be alive when his friend reached him because he reported hearing him moaning and saw him move his left arm slightly, Steindler said. He was dead, however, by the time Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers reached the site at about 9:45 a.m. Doro called emergency dispatches at 7:42 a.m. to report the fall.
Lord suffered massive contusions to his face and upper body as well as traumatic injuries to the left side of his body, including his arm, shoulder, face and head, Steindler said. Lord landed on his back, but also had injuries to the front of his body, which could mean the boulder that came loose may have landed on him at some point, he said.
“Based on the injuries he sustained, yes, that could have been the case,” Steindler said.
Reese stayed with Doro until Lord’s body was helicoptered off the mountain and “went so far above and beyond whatever anybody could have done,” the deputy said. Doro, who was not injured, “blames himself a lot,” Steindler said.
“He did everything he could,” he said. “He acted in a heroic manner and so did Reese.”
Steindler said he has attempted to speak with Reese, but as of Monday morning had not yet heard back from him.
Between seven and eight people were at the site of the accident by the time Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers reached it and were waiting to try to climb up the couloir and past the rescue efforts, Steindler said. The volunteers did not allow anyone up that route because it wasn’t stable, Steindler said.
Lord’s family, including his fiancee, and Doro’s family traveled to Aspen after hearing about the accident and were able to support each other at Aspen Valley Hospital, Steindler said.