Maroon Bells climbers went off the trail prior to accidents
Ryan Summerlin October 12, 2014
Two hikers who fell as they attempted to descend North Maroon Peak on Wednesday had gone off the trail before both were reported missing.
Jarod Wetherell, 37, an Avon resident, was climbing with partner David Richardson, 32, of Vail. Wetherell did not survive, and Richardson was rescued Friday. Wetherell died of blood loss, according to the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office.
Authorities recovered Wetherell’s body Friday from the upper portion of a section of North Maroon Peak commonly known as the “Rock Glacier.”
Mountain Rescue Aspen members brought Richardson, who injured his pelvis and ribs, to safety at 11:15 a.m. Friday. He was located in the Bell Chord area on the east aspect of North Maroon Peak and was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital by a helicopter from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, authorities said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Kendrick said the climbers had gone off the trail.
“They climbed up South Maroon and traversed over to North Maroon,” Kendrick said. “On their way down from North, they got off trail. There are a lot of places you can get off trail coming down. The only way you know for sure what the trail was is if you went up that way. They didn’t go up that way. They were coming back down a trail they had never been on.”
Kendrick said the climbers ended up off the trail and fell down one of the gulleys.
“They were not roped together and fell separately at different times,” Kendrick said. “The route coming down on the north side is not easy.”
Ginny Dyche, the director of community relations at Aspen Valley Hospital, said Richardson was in good condition Friday evening and was later transferred to a different hospital.
Authorities said the two were last known to be on top of North Maroon Peak around 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday. The climbers took a selfie after they topped the peak, sending it to a friend in Vail. The friend grew concerned when she didn’t hear any more from the climbers, prompting her to call Pitkin County authorities that night.
On Thursday, Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers began the search, but it was hampered by bad weather that rendered an air search unfeasible. They were out of the field by 9:15 p.m. Thursday and resumed the search Friday.
Alex Burchetta, spokesman for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, couldn’t say when the fall happened, but “in some capacity,” Richardson spent two nights in the wilderness. Burchetta had no information on either climber’s ability or experience with 14,000-foot or higher peaks.