Climber killed on Maroon Bells
August 15, 2010
ASPEN – A 20-year-old Colorado man died while climbing on the Maroon Bells Saturday morning when he was struck in the head by a falling rock and knocked several hundred feet down a couloir, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said.
The man was identified by authorities as Spencer James Nelson of Winter Park and a student of the University of Colorado.
Nelson was “hiking with his father and six other people on the traverse between North and South Maroon Peak when he as struck by a falling rock,” said a statement by deputy Alex Burchetta.
Nelson was reportedly wearing a helmet was he was struck, according to reports from the field to the sheriff’s office. It was believed that a member of Nelson’s climbing party knocked loose the rock in the tragic accident. The impact knocked Nelson down the Bell Chord Couloir.
“Estimates from Mountain Rescue Aspen were that he had fallen in the couloir approximately 600 feet,” the sheriff’s office statement said.
The Pitkin County communication center received a call from a reporting party on Maroon Peak at 10:25 a.m. about the accident. The hiking party had spotty cellular telephone service and checked in with the sheriff’s office at 12:15 p.m. from the summit of Maroon Peak. It was reported to authorities that two other men hiking in the area made their way down the couloir to check on Nelson. One was an off-duty member of Mountain Rescue Aspen while the other was off-duty from the Grand County Search and Rescue.
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The sheriff’s office learned at 5:55 p.m. that Nelson had died from his injuries.
Rescuers from Mountain Rescue Aspen, Aspen Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Flight For Life responded to the accident. 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’s Division One ski team. He was avidly looking forward to summiting all of Colorado’s peaks above 14,000 feet.