Breaking News: Three hikers await rescue Sunday near North Maroon Peak trail
November 2, 2014
Mountain Rescue Aspen and the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office late Sunday afternoon began a rescue operation to a spot off the standard trail to North Maroon Peak to assist three hikers in distress, a Sheriff's Office supervisor said.
The hikers are college students from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Deputy Jesse Steindler said. As of 7 p.m., he did not know if any of the hikers were injured.
"At about 4 p.m. (Sunday), a personal locating beacon went off and that message went to the U.S. Air Force, which then contacted the Colorado Search and Rescue Board, which then contacted Mountain Rescue Aspen," Steindler said. "The gist of it is that we have three young males — possibly around the age of 19 years old — that are calling for help on the north face of North Maroon Peak. We don't know if there is a medical emergency."
Communications were established with the hikers via lights, the deputy said.
"We flashed our lights at them; they flashed back," Steindler said. "Since we began flashing lights at them, which was right around the time it got dark, they have not moved from their location."
A Flight for Life helicopter attempted to reach the location but the pilot was forced to turn back because of poor weather, the deputy said. Rain and snow fell sporadically throughout Pitkin County on Sunday and continued into the evening hours.
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A Blackhawk helicopter from the High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, operated by the Army National Guard, was called to assist rescuers with the operation and was deployed at around 7:30 p.m. About a half-hour earlier, a five-member team from Mountain Rescue Aspen was at the trailhead and prepared to move by foot toward the target location, a 2.5-hour hike, Steindler said.
Another four rescuers were in route to the area. By sending extra personnel and bringing in the Blackhawk, the Sheriff's Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen were attempting to "err on the side of caution," the deputy said.
"We are erring on the side that somebody up there is actually hurt," he said. "They're not very high but they're in a really odd spot. It could be that they are just lost."
North Maroon Peak and its counterpart, Maroon Peak, form the famed Maroon Bells on the border between Pitkin County and Gunnison County, about 12 miles southwest of Aspen. North Maroon Peak, at 14,019 feet, is the 50th highest mountain peak in Colorado.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.