Hiker’s body recovered from scree field
August 19, 2003
The body of a man killed while hiking near Snowmass Lake over the weekend was recovered early Monday.
Littleton resident Steve Castellano, 51, died Saturday after losing his balance and tumbling 150 feet down a scree field a quarter mile west of the lake. Severe weather forced teams from Mountain Rescue-Aspen to postpone the recovery until 7 a.m. yesterday, when Castellano’s body was lifted out by helicopter and turned over to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office.
Castellano’s death was not the result of carelessness or inexperience, said Ron Rash, training officer with Mountain Rescue-Aspen and lead guide with Aspen Alpine Guides.
However, Rash said he hopes the tragedy will lead local mountaineers to take extra precautions when hiking and climbing in late summer.
Late August and early September bring afternoon storm systems to the valley, Rash said. Those planning on summitting a local peak – including Snowmass Mountain, as Castellano did the morning of his death – should do so before noon to avoid thunderstorms.
“The storms are coming up so quickly,” Rash said, leading to unexpected showers and lightning that put hikers at risk.
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Rain creates an additional hazard in the form of loose rocks. They can trip up hikers or fall on them from trails above.
“There are a lot of loose rocks after weeks of wet weather in the high country,” Rash said. “I think it’s really important on our local Fourteeners that people wear helmets. People are wearing helmets in all sports now – it makes sense to wear them on the mountain.”
Rash is cautioning hikers to stay on a designated route when climbing a Fourteener – he suggests the climber’s trails that lead directly to the summit.
This will help backcountry users to avoid unexpected hazards, such as the scree field that Castellano encountered.
It will also help would-be rescuers reach stranded parties in time, Rash said. It took Castellano’s climbing partner nearly two hours to find help for his friend, and by the time rescuers arrived, it was too late.
“Even in our local mountains, help could be days away – especially if weather shuts things down,” Rash said.
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