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September 17, 2012
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Climber who died near Aspen was from Colorado Springs

ASPEN - A climber who fell 800 feet to his death while ascending North Maroon Peak on Saturday morning has been identified as Derek Kelley, 34, of Colorado Springs.

Kelley fell when a boulder came loose, according to Eric Hansen, Pitkin County deputy coroner. His death was caused by traumatic brain injury, Hansen said in a statement Sunday. A Pitkin County Sheriff's Office statement Saturday said rescue personnel believed the climber had been wearing a helmet but not a harness.

Authorities were first notified at 9:20 a.m. Saturday that a man had fallen in an area known as the "second gully." Initial reports placed the climber at 300 feet from the peak's summit at the time of the fall.

A party of climbers that was not with Kelley reportedly reached his body soon after the Sheriff's Office received the initial call. The climbers determined that the man, later identified as Kelley, had died of injuries suffered in the fall.

At 12:10 p.m., a two-person Mountain Rescue Aspen team was placed in the field with assistance from DBS Helicopters, of Rifle. By 2 p.m., the body was recovered. It was later turned over to the Pitkin County Coroner's Office.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Alex Burchetta said Sunday that Kelley was climbing with someone he had met along the trail. They kept a similar pace on their way to the peak until Kelley's fall. Burchetta had no information on the fellow climber's identity, referring all other questions to the Coroner's Office.

Reached for comment Sunday evening, Hansen said he was told, but could not confirm, that Kelley was married. He had no additional information.

"There were a lot of eyewitnesses to the accident, but no one who really knew him was there," Hansen said.

Kelley's death marked the second life the peak has claimed in a three-month span. In July, Lenny Joyner, a 31-year-old New York City paramedic, fell 1,000 feet to his death.

The peak is 11 miles southwest of Aspen; its summit is at 14,014 feet in elevation.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 17, 2012 06:05AM Published Sep 17, 2012 01:33AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.