A climber died on Saturday after falling about 900 feet from below the summit of Colorado’s Capitol Peak, which is among the nation’s tallest mountains and considered one of the state’s most difficult to scale, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
The climber has been identified as a woman from Denver, but her name will not be shared publicly until the coroner notifies next of kin, the sheriff’s office said in a press release.
Her body was recovered over the weekend after a witness, who was hiking with a group, reported seeing a solo climber fall from a point on Capitol Peak estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 feet below the summit. The woman fell to her death into Pierre Lakes Basin, which sits in rocky terrain beneath the mountain.
Personnel at the Pitkin County Emergency Dispatch Center received a call from the witness before 8 a.m. local time on Saturday and proceeded to alert the sheriff’s office. Authorities carried out a recovery mission with help from mountain rescue teams that ascended part of Capitol Peak on foot to eventually find the woman’s body, while helicopters surveyed the area.
The hiker who witnessed the climber’s fall said the accident occurred after a rock that she tried to hold onto for support and leverage — climbers call this a “handhold” — gave way, the sheriff’s office explained.
An unstable landscape is one reason why climbing Capitol Peak can be a perilous undertaking. With an elevation of 14,130 feet, Capitol Peak is one of Colorado’s towering “Fourteeners.”It is located in a stretch of the Rocky Mountain range near Aspen.
Only “experienced mountaineers” should attempt to climb Fourteeners in this area, rangers say, as rocks are known to come loose, sometimes causing avalanches and landslides. The Pitkin County sheriff noted in a press release that “extreme exposure” on Capitol Peak poses safety risks as well.
Climbers have died before while attempting to reach the summit of Capitol Peak. In 2017, five deaths were reported over a six week span between July and August, and one climber’s body could not be recovered last year because recovery efforts became so dangerous.
“We’re trying to get people to slow down a little bit,” Pitkin County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Parker Lathrop told CBS News Colorado after the woman’s death on Saturday. “This [Capitol Peak] should be the crown jewel, and if you’re not ready for it — if your gut tells you to stop — the mountain will still be there (next time).“