Dangerous location means body will remain on Capitol Peak “for now”

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The body of a 32-year-old Wisconsin man who died climbing Capitol Peak in early August will remain on the mountain indefinitely, an official said this week.

Three Mountain Rescue Aspen members were injured – including one seriously – in a previous attempt to retrieve Kelly McDermott’s body, and officials have decided, after speaking with her father, that the danger of another attempt is too high, said Parker Lathrop, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

“(McDermott’s dad) said his son had run mountains for the last five years of his life and he couldn’t imagine another place he would want to be,” Lathrop said. “This is where his life was focused. Right now, his place is at peace with who he was.



Sheriff’s assistants and MRA volunteers began searching for McDermott – who was climbing alone – on August 2 after he failed to return from the 14,130-foot peak, considered one of Colorado’s most difficult and dangerous. . Bad weather hampered search efforts for the first two days, but a Gypsum-based Army Blackhawk helicopter crew spotted his body on the morning of August 4 about 500 feet below a precarious ridge of 100 feet long called Knife Edge, which features falls on either side.

McDermott’s body is located about two-thirds the length of the Knife Edge, up the mountain on the south side or on the Lake Geneva side, in the middle of a 1,200-foot vertical drop from the top of the crest, Lathrop said. At this point there is a small hallway that acts as a catch-all for the rocks that fall from the Knife Edge above. Inside the hallway is a small shelf, and McDermott’s body is located in the middle of that shelf, Lathrop said.



The location means McDermott almost certainly fell from the Knife Edge, although it’s not clear whether that happened on the way up or down the mountain, he said.

The three of the four members of the MRA team who climbed Pierre Lakes on August 4 in an attempt to retrieve the body were injured by a “rock avalanche” that fell from above, probably triggered by recreational climbers, according to the sheriff. Office. The most seriously injured MRA member has been airlifted to Denver, suffered multiple fractures and faces months of physiotherapy.

The MRA president did not respond to an email Friday requesting more information on the member’s condition.

McDermott’s body cannot be seen from anywhere along the Standard Route to Capitol Peak, Lathrop said.

“It’s isolated,” he said. “It overlooks the Lake Geneva basin. He is in an area that people will not enter.

If the opportunity arises to recover the body in the future, it could happen, Lathrop said. Otherwise, McDermott will stay where he fell.

“He will stay there for the time being,” Lathrop said. “It could be short and it could be forever.”

Attempts on Friday to reach McDermott’s father and another relative in Wisconsin were unsuccessful.

McDermott was a respiratory therapist at a hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, grew up in Rio, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to an Aug. 5 article in the Wisconsin State Journal. A relative told the newspaper that McDermott regularly heads west to go on an adventure.

“He was a very adventurous guy,” said Cyril McDermott, his uncle. “He was always on the move; wasn’t the type to sit down and watch late night movies or that sort of thing.

A friend who camped with McDermott before deciding to climb the Capitol solo told The Aspen Times in August that McDermott was an experienced climber and his decision to climb alone was “completely normal.”

Lathrop said leaving McDermott’s body on Capitol Peak was no easy decision.

“It’s hard,” he said. “This is, in recent memory, the only time the Sheriff’s Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen have left anyone on a peak. It is not something we want to do. But sometimes it’s the best thing to do. We have had rescuers injured before and we don’t want that to happen again. “

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