Aspen authorities believe climber died in fall
July 25, 2012
ASPEN – Lenny Joyner wasn’t shy about his plans to climb the Maroon Bells, two of Colorado’s most fabled and deadly peaks.
“Who flies out all the way to Colorado just to climb a mountain? This guy!” the 31-year-old New York City paramedic declared on the social-media site Google+. That was July 16. Three days later, on Thursday, Joyner updated his friends with news of his achievement: “Made it! Now for part 2!”
The sole clues he left about his whereabouts were his latitude and longitude. It was apparently the last anyone heard of Joyner, who was hiking alone, authorities said.
On Monday, a relative of Joyner’s called the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office to report that he had failed to show up for his scheduled shift at the New York Fire Department. Inclement weather cut Monday’s search efforts short, but members of Mountain Rescue Aspen found his rental car in a parking lot at Maroon Lake and discovered his campsite at Crater Lake, near the base of the mountain.
Clear weather Tuesday morning allowed a team of Mountain Rescue Aspen members to do an aerial search, via helicopter, in the Maroon Bells area, where, at approximately 8:15 a.m., they spotted the body of Joyner on the northern aspect of North Maroon Peak.
Just 15 minutes earlier, members on the same helicopter saw two climbers, whom they also were seeking, stranded on a cliff wall below North Maroon Creek.
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But Deputy George Kremer said the chief priority was finding Joyner. Kremer said his fatal injuries “are consistent with a fall,” noting that he suffered “multiple trauma.” Kremer said because there was no evidence of foul play, an autopsy is unlikely.
Joyner possibly had been dead since July 19, the day he summited the peak and signed his name on the register at the mountaintop, Kremer said. His body was found in a “very isolated place. Just a handful of people know about that spot,” Kremer said.
Mountain Rescue Aspen members retrieved Joyner’s body, and it was hoisted to the helicopter, which took it to the Maroon Bells parking area for a ground transfer to a funeral home in Glenwood Springs.
Meanwhile, the two stranded climbers – brothers Lonnie and Chris McCullough, of the Philadelphia area – spent the night on the cliff wall after they tried to evade Monday’s brief but intense thunderstorm. The two brothers were not hurt and were picked up by the helicopter and airlifted to the parking lot at the Bells, according to a statement issued Tuesday night by the Sheriff’s Office.
“We started out looking for Mr. Joyner,” Kremer said. “Once we had him, we concentrated on the hikers and got them.”
Joyner’s death marks the first climbing-related fatality in Pitkin County this year.
He is a 1999 graduate of Pleasantville High School in New York and attended the State University of New York in Plattsburgh.
At the base of the Maroon Bells, a U.S. Forest Service sign warns, “The beautiful Maroon Bells have claimed many lives in the past few years. They are unbelievably deceptive. The rock is downsloping, rotten, loose, and unstable. It kills without warning. The snowfields are treacherous, poorly consolidated, and no place for a novice climber. The gullies are death traps. Expert climbers who did not know the proper routes have died on these peaks. Don’t repeat their mistakes, for only rarely have these mountains given a second chance.”