Searchers injured recovering body of man on Capitol Peak near Aspen |

Searchers injured recovering body of man on Capitol Peak near Aspen

Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers hurt in rock slide after finding Wisconsin man missing since Sunday

Kelly McDermott

Three members of Mountain Rescue Aspen were injured Wednesday on Capitol Peak trying to recover the body of a 32-year-old man missing since Sunday, an official said.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and volunteers with MRA began searching for Kelly McDermott of Wisconsin on Monday after friends reported that he didn’t come back from climbing the 14,131-foot peak near Aspen, Pitkin County Undersheriff Alex Burchetta said Wednesday afternoon.

MRA personnel spent all day Tuesday looking for McDermott as well, then took advantage of better weather Wednesday to put together a larger search party. McDermott’s body was located Wednesday beneath the knife edge that leads to the final climb to Capitol’s summit, Burchetta said.

“It looks like he fell about 400 feet,” he said.

As Mountain Rescue crews prepared to try to recover the body, a rock fall occurred and injured the volunteers, who were airlifted out of the field by an Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and later taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, he said. The injuries ranged from serious to minor, though none were potentially fatal. No other information about the injuries was available.

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McDermott was with a group of people who hiked to Capitol Lake on Saturday, Burchetta said. However, they encountered another climber at the lake who’d come down from Capitol and told them not to go up because the weather was bad, he said.

McDermott, however, decided to get up in the morning and summit the treacherous peak by himself, and that was the last his friends saw of him, Burchetta said.

It may take some time to recover McDormett’s body because it is located in a dangerous and unsafe spot, Burchetta said.

Capitol Peak is a 14,130-foot mountain in the Elk Mountains west of Aspen. In 2017, five people died in six weeks attempting the summit. Three of those deaths came in the knife edge area.

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