Climber killed on Maroon Bells
August 16, 2010
ASPEN – The body of Spencer James Nelson, 20, of Winter Park, was recovered Sunday from the Maroon Bells, where he died after a 600-foot fall a day earlier.
Nelson had been descending from the summit of Maroon Peak when he was reportedly hit by a rock and knocked into a deep gorge in the side of the mountain, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said.
Nelson was “hiking with his father and six other people on the traverse between North and South Maroon Peak when he was struck by a falling rock,” sheriff’s Deputy Alex Burchetta said in a press release.
It was believed that a member of Nelson’s climbing party knocked the rock loose, triggering the tragic accident. The impact knocked him down the Bell Chord Couloir.
He was wearing a helmet, according to sheriff’s office reports.
Crews had been working from about noon Saturday to recover his body, but had to stop Saturday night because of darkness.
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Two crews, one land-based and the other in a helicopter owned by a private wilderness rescue enterprise, resumed the effort at 5:30 Sunday morning, Burchetta said. Working at 11,274 feet in elevation, crews recovered the victim’s body around 10:40 yesterday.
The Pitkin County communication center received a call from a reporting party on Maroon Peak at 10:25 a.m. Saturday. The hiking party had spotty cell phone service and checked in with the sheriff’s office at 12:15 p.m. from the summit of Maroon Peak. Authorities learned that two other men hiking in the area had made their way down the couloir to check on Nelson. One was an off-duty member of Mountain Rescue Aspen, the other a member of Grand County Search and Rescue who also was off-duty.
The sheriff’s office learned at 5:55 p.m. Saturday that Nelson had died.
Rescuers from Mountain Rescue Aspen, Aspen Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Flight For Life responded. The Colorado National Guard High Altitude Army Aviation Training Site (HAATS) used a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to transport equipment and personnel to the scene.
Nelson’s family told authorities he was a member of the University of Colorado ski team. He was avidly looking forward to summiting all of Colorado’s peaks above 14,000 feet.