UPDATE: Weather postpones search for Summit County man missing after hiking Missouri Mountain, a 14er
A Summit County man hiking one of the state’s 14,000-foot mountains in a nearby northwestern county was reported missing early Sunday morning when he failed to make it home the day before.
Shuei Kato, 36, of Silverthorne, was believed to have summited Missouri Mountain in the Collegiate Peaks near the town of Buena Vista by himself around noon on Saturday, according to his wife Valerie who lodged the report, and was expected back later that afternoon. She called the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 2 a.m. after her husband ultimately didn’t return.
Sheriff’s deputies immediately responded to the Missouri Gulch trailhead of the 14,067-foot peak in the popular Sawatch Range and discovered Kato’s car. That set off an extensive air and ground search at first light Sunday morning that included three search and rescue groups totaling more than 45 ground crew, as well as three helicopters between Flight For Life and the Air National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Eagle County. Five members of the Summit County Rescue Group in addition to the Flight For Life team from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco were involved in the Sunday operation that went late into the evening.
The Chaffee County north rescue group suspended the search effort at nightfall Sunday and decided to postpone it Monday because of inclement weather and concerns over avalanche risk on difficult terrain. The sheriff’s office requested civilian volunteers not respond to the peak to help with the search due to significant danger from Monday’s low-visibility conditions.
“We do not need volunteers up here,” said Chaffee County Sheriff John Spezze. “We’re using trained professionals for this thing. I understand the family’s concern. We’re getting into that period where timing is certainly an issue, but safety has to be paramount, too.”
With his wife, Kato is the owner of Retro Games Japan, a mostly mail-order-based specialty import video game shop located off Warren Avenue in Silverthorne above the ReSaddled Thrift Store. The business’s website says that he grew up in Japan and his personal Facebook page states he attended college at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Along with Mounts Belford and Oxford, Missouri Mountain is one of three so-called “14ers” accessible via the Missouri Gulch trailhead. Missouri is rated a Class 2-to-borderline-Class 3 (out of 5) climbing difficulty, requiring no specific rock scrambling or technical abilities to complete the 10.5-mile standard route.
According to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a nonprofit that tracks user days and maintains public trails on each of the state’s iconic peaks, an estimated 5,000-7,000 individuals hiked Missouri in 2016. Spezze said that Chaffee’s search group stays busy each summer and fall with rescues in the Collegiates, but did not believe the weather Saturday played a factor in Kato’s disappearance.
“We get a lot of hikers in the county, we do a lot of searches,” said Spezze. “It’s a dangerous sport and these things happen, and we have to deal with them.”
The wintry conditions are expected to clear by Monday night, and Spezze said he anticipates restarting the search for Kato with a full set of resources early Tuesday morning.
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