68-year-old hiker dies on popular hike between Aspen and Crested Butte | AspenTimes.com

68-year-old hiker dies on popular hike between Aspen and Crested Butte

A 68-year-old man from Colorado Springs died Thursday morning on the Crested Butte side of West Maroon Pass, according to authorities.

The man and his son had taken a shuttle to the trailhead outside of Crested Butte and were hiking the popular route to Aspen.

"They were almost at the summit, roughly at 12,000 feet, when the gentleman (collapsed)," said Marjorie Trautman, public information officer for the Mount Crested Butte Police Department. It is believed he died almost immediately, she said.

The son, in his 30s, started heading back to the trailhead for assistance. A trail runner came across the body and later made contact with the son. They made arrangements for the trail runner to head to the settlement of Crystal where there is access to a radio for emergency responders. The son returned to his dad.

Carbondale Fire Department was informed of the death. The information was passed on to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, then it was determined the death occurred in Gunnison County. Mount Crested Butte Police Department contracts to handle incidents for that neck of the woods, so it coordinated a recovery by Crested Butte Search and Rescue.

The name of the deceased and the cause of death weren't immediately available.

Glenn K. Beaton: Go all the way, Juice

"He … could … go … all … the … way!" — Catchphrase for a touchdown run in-progress made famous by sportscaster Chris Berman

Orenthal James Simpson was born in 1947 in a San Francisco housing project. He was soon dubbed "O.J."

His father was a drag queen, literally. His parents divorced and he was raised by his mother. His father later died of AIDS.

O.J. developed rickets as a child, which is typically caused by a vitamin deficiency. He wore braces on his legs and had the weak-boned bow-leggedness that is a characteristic of rickets survivors.

He joined a gang at age 13. He was arrested three times by age 15 and was briefly incarcerated in a juvenile facility. He married at 18. He was a father at 21.

About that time, he became a superstar college football player and was the runaway winner of the Heisman Trophy. Coming out of college, he was the No. 1 choice in the pro draft.

O.J. was named an All Pro six times, the Most Valuable Player in the league once and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was one of the greatest.

But not in all ways. He was once arrested for beating his second wife. After they divorced, he was arrested for the gruesome murder of her and her date. In a racially charged trial, the jury acquitted him.

He was then sued by the victims' parents in a civil action for wrongful death. The civil jury found that he did commit the murders and held him liable for $33 million.

He lost everything. He even sold his trophies. He was later arrested for robbery and kidnapping in trying to steal them back from a souvenir dealer. For that, he served nine years in the penitentiary.

Last month, he was granted parole. This fall, at age 70, he will be free at last.

So O.J., how will you spend your last dozen or so years in this world?

I'm reminded of another criminal, Charles Colson. He was President Richard Nixon's hatchet man and a central Watergate figure. While his boss received a presidential pardon, Colson went to the penitentiary.

But as between Nixon and Colson, it was Colson who was the lucky one. Nixon lived out his years as a pariah — a living dead — but Colson was born again.

After serving his sentence, Colson started a ministry for prison inmates called Prison Fellowship. He received 15 honorary degrees and was awarded the Templeton Prize, the highest prize in America for religious service. He donated the million-dollar prize as well as all his speaking and writing royalties to his nonprofit ministry.

You gotta serve somebody.

For half his life, Colson served flawed humans, his own conceit and the tyranny of his insecurity. For the last half of his life, until he died a few years ago, he served something better.

He wrote a book, naturally called "Born Again." His book explains that it takes a certain humility and courage to recognize that you're not the master of the universe. In the end, you're not even the master of yourself.

It takes that same courage to admit that, as good as you may be, there's something in this universe that is infinitely more than you — something worth serving.

Athletics can help make a boy into an adult male. But it takes more — it takes that courage — to make an adult male into a man.

O.J., you've been on top of this earthly world and you've been laid low in the hell of prison and shame. Now you have a new life, albeit a short one. Surely the events of the years have given you humility, but do you have that courage? Do you have that courage to serve?

I think you do.

Go for it, Juice. Bring it. Break into the clear. Don't look back. Escape the darkness and run for daylight.

You … could … go … all … the … way.

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Pennsylvania woman dies on Conundrum Creek Trail near Aspen

A 20-year-old Pennsylvania woman died late Thursday or early Friday after becoming ill while hiking to Conundrum Hot Springs, an official said Friday.

The woman – who has not yet been identified – was hiking with three friends who are all from the Pennsylvania area, said Pitkin County Sheriff's Deputy Anthony Todaro. Two of the friends now live in Dillon and the third attends the School of Mines in Golden, he said.

The four spent the past two days hanging out in Dillon before setting out Thursday afternoon on the Conundrum Creek Trail for the popular hot springs, an 8.5-mile hike from the Castle Creek Valley that gains about 2,500 feet of elevation. Conundrum Hot Springs are located at 11,222 feet.

Todaro said the foursome left a bit late in the afternoon but had the proper gear, water and food and were prepared to spend the night at the hot springs and hike out the next day. However, during the hike up, the 20-year-old woman became nauseated and began vomiting, so they set up a tent, put her inside and tried to make her comfortable, he said.

In the meantime, two of the women hiked out to get help, leaving the third with the woman who was ill, Todaro said. The two women left the other two about 8:30 p.m. and were able to notify emergency dispatchers about 10:45 p.m., according to Todaro and a Sheriff's Office news release.

Volunteers with Mountain Rescue Aspen were dispatched into the field and a helicopter was dispatched to pick up the ill woman, he said. But when the helicopter arrived in the area it wasn't able to land, which may have been because of weather issues, Todaro said.

By the time another helicopter returned just before 5 a.m., the woman was dead, he said.

It was not clear Friday afternoon what time the aborted landing occurred or the exact reasons for it. Todaro did not know if the woman was alive at that point or not.

The woman's body was taken out of the wilderness by about 7 a.m., he said. The woman had no known previous medical issues, so her cause of death was not clear Friday, Todaro said.

Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Eric Hansen said the cause of death likely won't be known until an autopsy is performed. The woman's name likely won't be released until Saturday morning, he said, pending notification of her relatives.

Aspen restaurants, businesses feel effects of Grand Ave. bridge closure

As the Grand Avenue Bridge work ramps up, downvalley delays are spoiling the Aspen food chain and creating frustration for some local restaurants.

At Jus Aspen, deliveries have been "all over the place" this week, owner Tamara Petit said Thursday.

Petit said the intermittent deliveries have been especially challenging for the juice bar and cafe, as it relies on fresh produce, some of which it has not received at all. At about 5 pounds of produce needed for one juice drink, Jus lacks the capacity to store any additional inventory, Petit said.

Annette's Mountain Bake Shop co-owner Fino Docimo said the closure and delays have affected the local eatery's deliveries.

On Wednesday, "we didn't get a delivery at all," Docimo said — despite the truck being in the area with the goods. Docimo said the driver had to pull over after reaching his maximum number of hours allowed behind the wheel because he was stuck in bridge-related traffic.

As a result, the delivery arrived one day later than planned, Docimo said.

While food deliveries have posed anywhere from a significant to no effect on local eateries, those interviewed Thursday agreed on one point: Business declined Monday and has remained at least somewhat slower this week than last.

"As far as deliveries, everything actually has been perfect," Jimmy Bodega's manager Steele Seader said of the oyster bar and seafood restaurant. She added that they did notice "a drop in guests after the weekend."

Mondays are "always our busiest day," Petit said, noting that this week was an exception at the juice bar.

Clark's Market store director David Clark said business at the grocery store has been a little slower this week, and that most of the out-of-town shoppers he's talked with traveled over Independence Pass to reach Aspen, avoiding bridge-related traffic in the Roaring Fork Valley.

According to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich, as of July 31 occupancy in Aspen and Snowmass Village for the month of August was 4.4 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively, below its 2016 counterparts.

"While the first two weeks of August were clearly quite strong, things will get noticeably quieter starting this week, considerably more so than last year," Tomcich, who tracks occupancy via the central bookings agency, wrote in a report Monday. "We'll have to see what kind of last-minute bookings the next couple of weeks bring, as there is certainly plenty of availability remaining throughout both Aspen and Snowmass."

He added, "Whether or not the Glenwood Avenue Bridge closure has any impact on future last-minute bookings will soon be known."

Tomcich was out of the office Thursday and could not be reached for further comment.

Most restauranteurs feel the Grand Avenue Bridge venture — the largest infrastructure project on the Western Slope in 25 years, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation — is in part to blame for the slower sales this week.

But other factors certainly are at play, Mi Chola co-owner Adam Malmgren pointed out, including summer winding down, a pre-Labor Day weekend lull, and the start of the school year along the Front Range and in neighboring states.

"It's hard to tell if it's the Texas exodus or what it is," Malmgren said. "We'll have to wait another week and see."


Carbondale educator killed in crash that also injured state trooper

A beloved teacher as Ross Montessori school in Carbondale was identified Thursday as the person killed in a crash Wednesday on Interstate 70 near Silt that also injured a Colorado State Patrol trooper.

The trooper had stopped the teacher’s vehicle on westbound I-70 near mile marker 93, and another vehicle crashed into the stopped vehicle at about 5:30 p.m., killing the teacher and injuring the trooper. The crash caused an extended closure of westbound I-70 that evening.

Shaw Lewis, a 39-year-old teacher at Carbondale’s Ross Montessori who lived in Rifle, was killed, according to Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire. The coroner pronounced Lewis dead at the scene.

Trooper Charles Hiller, who’s been with CSP and working out of Eagle since 2014, was standing at the passenger side of the stopped vehicle when the second vehicle crashed into it. The trooper was treated for minor injuries at Grand River Hospital in Rifle.

No charges had been filed by Thursday evening against the second vehicle’s driver, whose identity has still not been released. Walt Stowe, spokesman for Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the accident, said that charges were likely. Stowe also said in a news release that the second driver was injured.

CSP Sgt. Dave Everidge said that the patrol’s vehicle crimes unit was supporting the sheriff’s investigation, as will the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Sonya Hemmen, head of Ross Montessori, said Lewis was very close to his students at the school. He and his wife also have two children who attend Ross Montessori.

“It’s a lot to take in right now,” Hemmen said Thursday afternoon, noting that it will be a hard start to the school year next Wednesday. “But we’re going to offer his family whatever support they need. He was a wonderful part of the community, and he’ll be very much missed.”

Lewis, who grew up in Basalt, taught technology, drove a bus and was a reading assistant at the school. Hemmen said he was a quirky, light-hearted and fun person who loved learning and loved reading.

On Wednesday he was at a book club, where he told a group of professionals that Ross Montessori had made him a better person, said Hemmen. “And we believe that he made Ross Montessori better by being part of our community,” she added.

A grief counselor will be at the school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to help support children or adults who feel they need it.

Colorado state law requires drivers to move into the left lane when a patrol car has someone pulled over on the right shoulder. That law has also been modified to include any emergency vehicle, tow truck or maintenance vehicle pulled over with its emergency lights flashing, said Everidge.

If the left lane is blocked and you cannot move over, the law requires you to slow down to a Prudent speed, he said. Failing to do so could land you with a $169 reckless driving ticket and four points against your driver’s license.

In the last couple of years, two CSP troopers have been killed in roadside collisions.

The interstate through Garfield County is especially dangerous, not because it features tight mountain curves or steep inclines, but probably because it doesn’t. Everidge said the straightaways of I-70 in western Garfield County likely give drivers a false sense of security and tempt them to pick up speed.

The Post Independent found in an analysis of 10 years of interstate fatalities published in December that Garfield County had the highest number of vehicle crash deaths out of all Colorado’s western I-70 corridor counties. Speed was likely a main factor in these fatal wrecks, as most of them occurred on clear roads, in good weather and in daylight.

Everidge reiterated that if you go off the road at speeds around 70 mph and higher, your chances of rolling your vehicle go up dramatically. And the faster you drive, the higher the likelihood of dying in a wreck.

Aspen, Basalt events for viewing Monday’s solar eclipse

On Monday, the United States becomes ground zero for a full solar eclipse. For many, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event — it is the first time in 99 years that a total eclipse has traversed the U.S. coast to coast.

Here in Aspen, the sun will be 92 percent occluded at the peak of the eclipse; the eclipse will begin at 10:20 a.m., peak at 11:43 a.m., and end at 1:11 p.m.

It will be celebrated in countless ways; here are a few local happenings:


What: The Great American Eclipse

When: Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Galena Plaza, Pitkin County Library

Details: The Aspen Science Center, in partnership with the Pitkin County Library, will host eclipse viewing with telescopes, pinhole cameras, demonstrations and simulations about eclipses, games for the kids and more. More than 400 pairs of free solar glasses will be available, or you can make your own solar eclipse viewer.

More info: http://www.aspensciencecenter.org


What: Solar Eclipse Viewing Party

When: Monday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Basalt Library

Details: The library's telescope will be equipped with solar filters for viewing the eclipse and a limited number of free solar glasses also will be available. The event also will include free snacks and drinks, kids' activites, and "noisemakers to scare away the dragon who ate the sun."

More info: http://www.basaltlibrary.org


With the recent Perseid Meteor Shower, Stars Above Aspen event and the Great American Eclipse on everyone's mind, we sought out other astronomy-related activites worth checking out:

Aug. 26: New Moon Stargazing with Aspen Science Center. 7:30 to 11 p.m. Free. http://www.aspensciencecenter.org

Aug 28: Zodiac Constellations with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies at Hallam Lake. 8 p.m. http://www.aspennature.org

Ongoing: The Little Nell's Stargazing Tours. http://www.thelittlenell.com

Colorado Lt. Gov. Lynne closing in on official gubernatorial bid

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne took the next-to-last step late last week to enter the crowded Democratic race and become Colorado’s next governor.

According to statute, a person does not become an official candidate until he or she formally announces their bid, but the Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Thursday afternoon that the 63-year-old former Kaiser Permanente executive filed her candidate affidavit on Friday, Aug. 11. The administrative requirement communicates Lynne’s intent to run and allows her to receive campaign contributions and make expenditures toward capturing the state’s top job — and working toward taking office as Colorado’s first-ever female governor.

As part of the new development, Lynne is scheduled to appear at a Summit County Democrats mixer in Breckenridge on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 20, with gubernatorial candidates Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy and Rep. Jared Polis.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Curtis Hubbard of OnSight Public Affairs — an advisor to Lynne — said she has received a groundswell of encouragement to run, but is still lining up formal support before making an announcement.

“Donna is using this exploratory phase to identify supporters and to hear from key Democrats across the state,” Hubbard said in a statement. “Sunday’s appearance is part of that ongoing effort. She expects to make a formal announcement in the weeks ahead.”

Lynne previously filed campaign committee paperwork with the office on Aug. 1, telling the Denver Post at the time she would do so as part of an exploration into running through initial fundraising and campaigning.

“I am actively exploring a bid,” she said then. “I want to make sure that I have everything in order. A lot of people urge candidates to run. But you really want to make sure that you can solidify that — that they will be endorsers, that they will be financial supporters and that’s a process.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper also weighed in with public comments in early-August, stating that should Lynne opt to run, she would be a strong choice to become the state’s 43rd governor.

“I do think she is a remarkably talented person, and if she were to run and to win she would be a great governor,” said Hickenlooper. “The last thing she needs is for everyone to say, ‘The governor is trying to get her elected’ or ‘pushing her out there to do this.'”

Hickenlooper nominated Lynne to her current role in March 2016 and she subsequently became Colorado’s 49th lieutenant governor May 4, 2016.

New Grand Avenue bridge infrastructure damaged in collapse

What was a twisted crumble of steel bridge girders from a section of the old Grand Avenue Bridge that collapsed during demolition work Tuesday night was more like a neat mess waiting to be hauled off the following morning.

The unexpected collapse of a full 210-foot span of the bridge crossing Seventh Street and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks did cause some damage to two columns already in place for the new bridge, a project official said Wednesday.

That will likely add to the cost of the $126 million project and could cause some delays, Dave Eller, regional transportation director for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said during a telephone conference with reporters.

On Wednesday, crews were busy removing the estimated 16 tons of steel that fell to the street and across the railroad tracks. The girders were being cut into sections to be taken away.

"Contractors were following the approved, very precise safety plan when this happened," Eller said. "There were no injuries, there was no private property damage and there was no damage to the railroad tracks."

VIDEO: Watch Tuesday night’s collapse of the old structure

The Union Pacific said it experienced minor delays right after the incident, but the tracks were quickly cleared and inspected, and operations resumed around 11 p.m. Tuesday, UP spokesperson Raquel Espinoza said. The east- and west-bound Amtrak California Zephyr also were running on schedule Wednesday.

Eller confirmed that exposed rebar was severely damaged on two of the columns that will eventually support the piers on the south side of the Colorado River for the new bridge.

"We will have to assess that, and hopefully the damage is determined to be minor so that we can mitigate it and keep the project on schedule," Eller said.

None of the debris from the collapsed section ended up in the Colorado River, which is located farther to the north, he said.

The collapse occurred as workers were trying to pull two of the attached girders away from a pier situated between the railroad tracks and the Colorado River.

Eller explained that the bridge spans are made up of six girders attached in three separate sections. The plan was to remove two girders at a time and pull them to the road surface so they could be cut into smaller pieces.

When crews began to pull on the first girder section, the 64-year-old support pier twisted and gave out, and all six girders came down at once, he said.

"You plan the deconstruction process as best you can, but events like this are not unusual or unexpected when you are taking down large, old structures like the bridge," said Tom Newland, public information manager for the project.

Officials said the remainder of the old bridge structure over Interstate 70 and the river will continue to be assessed, but it does not appear to be compromised.

Eller said the section that collapsed was already detached from the remainder of the structure, so there was no jarring effect that would have damaged the spans still in place farther to the north.

Seven shorter spans of girders will be removed once engineers are confident that the demolition work can proceed, he said.

Because those spans are located over the river and I-70, a "much different" technique will be used, he explained.

"Our crews will be removing those girders one at a time using a crane from above," he said. "We are confident in using this technique, but we are re-evaluating the demo plan and are making sure we don't have any compromised piers out there."

Nighttime I-70 closures are in place when bridge demolition work is being done overhead. During those times, traffic is diverted onto the Sixth Street detour route.

At this point, officials said the estimated 10- to 14-day bridge demolition phase of the Grand Avenue Bridge project remains on schedule.

"It's a question of how much this will delay the project, and what we can do to catch up," Newland said. "We definitely probably lost one day on the deconstruction schedule."

Meanwhile, the usual evening traffic backups on the bridge detour route coming into Glenwood Springs from the south began around 4 p.m. Wednesday, when motorists and traffic control crews were bracing for another evening of congestion and long delays getting through town.

Morning backups along eastbound I-70 coming into the bridge detour route at exit 114 were reportedly not as long as they were Monday and Tuesday, Newland said.

"I noticed a big increase in people coming across the pedestrian bridge after getting off the bus about 7:30, so I think maybe more people are trying that," Newland said.

I-70 traffic coming into Glenwood in the morning, and the reverse commute back home in the evening have resulted in full gridlock at times during the first week that the detour has been in effect.

Project officials still hope to see a 35 percent reduction in usual traffic during the 95-day detour. To help accomplish that, a combination of free RFTA bus service between Parachute and Glenwood Springs, free in-town shuttles, permitted employee van pools, and encouraging people to walk, bike and carpool as much as possible are being employed.

One motorist stuck in the backup south of Glenwood Wednesday afternoon told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that some people were getting out of cars on the passenger side and walking the rest of the way into town faster than the traffic was moving.

Search resumes for climber missing since 2016 near Maroon Bells

Search-and-rescue teams spent nearly 20 hours since Saturday looking for a climber who went missing in September 2016 in the Maroon Bells area but did not find any clues.

David Cook, 49, from Corrales, New Mexico, was reported missing Sept. 20. He was climbing solo and the former Marine planned to climb Pyramid Peak one day and then South Maroon and North Maroon peaks the next day, officials said at the time. They searched for eight days.

On Wednesday, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office said Mountain Rescue Aspen and other teams spent nearly nine hours Saturday and another nine hours Wednesday looking for signs of Cook. Teams also went out in July to look for Cook.

Search teams Saturday included a canine crew that were dropped into the Fravert and Lost Remuda basins via helicopter, the Sheriff's Office said. Crews from Garfield County and West Elk search-and-rescue organizations joined a team from the Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States.

Fravert Basin is on the west and south side of Maroon Peak; the Lost Remuda Basin is on the west side of North Maroon Peak. The Sheriff's Office said ground teams Saturday also searched an area of the East Maroon trail as well as the Minnehaha Gulch and near Crater Lake in the area known as the Garbage Chute.

Wednesday's operations included rescuers climbing Maroon, North Maroon and Pyramid peaks. Crews included volunteers from Alpine Rescue in Evergreen, Rocky Mountain Rescue from Boulder, the Vail Mountain Rescue and Colorado Forensic Canines from Bailey.

In July, Cook's wife, Maureen, sent a letter to the Aspen community thanking them for their efforts and support in the continued search.

 Editor’s note: Mountain Rescue Aspen was inadvertently omitted from the initial story, and this report has been updated to reflect the addition. 

Semi driver avoiding Glenwood Springs bridge traffic busted on Independence Pass

A semi-truck driver learned Wednesday that navigating over Independence Pass might save time, but it also will cost money.

Pitkin County Sheriff's deputies cited driver Louis Zacarias Perez, 36, at approximately 9:55 a.m. near the Lost Man area of the scenic stretch of Highway 82. Perez was slapped with a $1,000 fine because he was driving a vehicle longer than 35 feet, said Deputy Jesse Steindler, a patrol supervisor for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

The driver told authorities he used the pass to avoid the traffic delays spawned by the Glenwood Springs bridge construction work.

"It was a number of things (on why Perez used the pass), but in his world the bridge was paramount in terms of why he did it," Steindler said. "He also said that Google indicated that was the way he could go."

The Colorado Department of Transportation's big-rig warning signs on the Pitkin County side of the pass also didn't deter him, Steindler said.

"This was egregious," he said. "There are CDOT signs warning anything above 35 feet. He said he saw the signs, but he couldn't get away with it."

Deputies sent the driver on his way after he was ticketed, Steindler said. Driving for Silver Trucking LLC, Zacarias Perez was eastbound toward Twin Lakes, and it would have made no sense to reroute him toward Aspen, Steindler said.

"As far as I'm concerned, the worst places are on this side (the Aspen side) of the pass," he said. "In other words, he had already passed the really bad spots and he was within 4 to 6 miles from the top (of the pass)."

Another motorist had tipped off authorities that a semi was near the Grottos area, prompting deputies to respond, Steindler said.

Work on the Glenwood bridge began Monday and is expected to last three months. Independence Pass, a state highway, traditionally closes by Nov. 7 at the latest, but inclement weather can force CDOT to close it earlier.

Wednesday's citation was the first so far related to a big-rig trying to avoid the construction delays by using the pass, Steinder said. It likely won't be the last.

"I think it's going to be a complete cluster," Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, told The Aspen Times in May. "We're anticipating a huge increase in use of the pass."

The Colorado Legislature passed a law in 2014 increasing the fine for large trucks on the pass from $500 to $1,000 to try and curb the practice. Drivers of big rigs that cause traffic delays or road closures face fines of $1,500.