Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

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August 6, 2014
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Climber’s body found near Capitol Peak

Searchers recovered the body of a missing climber found in the Mount Daly Basin on Wednesday morning, but not before three more people were injured during the rescue effort.

The missing climber was identified as Jim Nelson, 53, of Salt Lake City, by family friend Seth Mitchell.

Two Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers and an onlooker required hospital attention after the onlooker caused a rockslide during the rescue effort, authorities said.

A relative of Nelson’s contacted the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to say that Nelson had not returned home as scheduled, according to a Sheriff’s Office statement. Nelson also had failed to report to work on Tuesday, the statement said.

Nelson was described as an experienced climber and outdoor enthusiast. An investigation into his whereabouts started immediately after he was reported missing, according to the Sheriff’s Office. His car was reportedly found late Tuesday night at the trailhead to Capitol Peak.

Around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, searchers reportedly combed the area surrounding Capitol Peak. Around 11:30 a.m., the searchers reportedly spotted what they believed to be a body in the Mount Daly Basin above Moon Lake at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. A search helicopter reportedly was able to land nearby and positively identified the body as Nelson’s.

As the body was being moved to the helicopter, a person watching the effort from above the accident scene reportedly caused a rockslide, striking two rescue workers. The onlooker and one rescue worker reportedly left the scene for immediate medical attention. The second stricken rescue worker reportedly stayed to help recover Nelson’s body before receiving treatment for her injuries.

According to Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Burchetta, the onlooker and first rescue worker who received medical attention were both in satisfactory condition. There was no update on the second rescue worker’s condition.

“I just want to reiterate to the public that there are real risks anytime you access the backcountry,” Burchetta said. “It can be dangerous, even for trained rescue workers.”

An investigation was reportedly underway into what caused the accident that led to Nelson’s death.

“He was an amazing man and a great father,” Mitchell said. “We were both Scoutmasters in Salt Lake City.”

Mitchell said Nelson was an avid mountain biker and ran in many ultra marathons. He was also a Navy veteran who was born in Hunter, Utah. Nelson is survived by his wife, Rebecca, and their five children.

According to Burchetta, Nelson was hiking alone, and his body was airlifted off the mountain.

“Hiking alone was pretty much standard for Jim,” Mitchell said. “He did a lot of solo hikes. This is one man who was always prepared in the outdoors.”

Staff writer Jill Beathard contributed to this report.


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The Aspen Times Updated Aug 8, 2014 01:36PM Published Aug 7, 2014 03:07PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.