Climber dies in Maroon Bells fall; body recovered
Ryan Summerlin May 31, 2005
The body of a climber who fell to his death Monday at the Maroon Bells has been recovered.
Mountain Rescue Aspen personnel reached the body of Kip White at 1:55 p.m. and are now transporting him to the Maroon Bells trailhead, which will take at least two hours, according to authorities.
His body was recovered at 13,360 feet.
White and his son, Jordan, were climbing the Bells Monday when poor weather forced them to turn around before they reached the summit. Both North and South Maroon Peaks are fourteeners; the fall apparently occurred on the Bell Cord Couloir, from which both peaks are accessible.
The couloir stretches from near Crater Lake at the base of the Bells to a narrow saddle between the summits, at about 13,800 feet.
Father and son were roped together, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office, and fell an estimated 400 feet.
Jordan, 19, lost consciouness in the fall. He recovered and descended another 30 to 40 feet to reach his father, whom he determined was dead. He then continued his descent, spent the night in the shelter of trees and hiked out this morning to notify authorities.
Both men are experienced climbers, Jordan told authorities. No information on the extent of Jordan’s injuries has been made available.
Kip White, 49, of Lakewood, Colo. is an independent singer/songwriter and acoustic guitarist with six CDs to his credit ” all independently produced, according to his website, [ www.kipwhite.com ]. The site notes several upcoming concert dates around the country.
White’s family includes his wife, Luann, and two children, Jordan and Aubrey, according to the website.
His body will be taken to Aspen Valley Hospital after the recovery team reaches the trailhead. The Pitkin County coroner’s office will determine the cause of his death.
For full coverage of the accident and recovery operation, see Wednesday’s Aspen Times.
A rescue team is continuing to search for the fallen climber’s location in a couloir between North and South Maroon peaks, located at about 12,200 feet in elevation.
The first search and rescue team is now in the Bell Cord Couloir, or chute, where they believe the fall occurred, based on the descriptions of Jordan White, who survived the fall and hiked to safety this morning to notify authorities.
Mountain Rescue Aspen has 11 men and women in the field, with a support staff of eight at the operation’s staging area at the base of the Bells. They are being assisted by Capital Creek Outfitters, which is supplying four horses and two riders.
In addition, aerial photographs of the area have been taken by Aspen Air Rescue to aid searchers on the ground in pinpointing the area where both Jordan White and his father, Kip, fell yesterday.
Jordan and his father are both experienced climbers who have summited a number of fourteeners, Jordan has told authorities.
Rescuers are working this morning to reach the body of a man who apparently died Monday when he fell while descending one of the Maroon Bells.
Jordan White and his father, Kip, were climbing the Bells ” a pair of fourteeners near Aspen ” yesterday when bad weather set in, according to a press release issued by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office. They decided to turn around before summiting; both men fell some 400 feet while descending.
Jordan, 19, lost consciousness for some period of time, regained consciousness and climbed down 30 to 40 feet, where, he told authorities, he found his father and determined the elder White had died.
Jordan then continued his descent until darkness fell Monday night, took shelter in some trees, and hiked the rest of the way out at first light today to report the incident. The sheriff’s department was notified of the accident at about 6 a.m.
A Mountain Rescue Aspen team is on the scene, attempting to reach the elder White’s body. His death will not be officially confirmed until the team finds him. The attempt could be called off by incident commander Tom Grady should the team encounter dangerous snow conditions or weather, according to the sheriff’s office.
Kip Ryan White, 49, is a Lakewood, Colo. resident.
No further information on Jordan White’s condition is yet available.
The Aspen Times will provide further details as they become available.