Former Aspen mountaineer died from head injuries |

Former Aspen mountaineer died from head injuries

The world-class mountaineer and former longtime Aspenite who fell over a railing in her Telluride home in May died of severe cranial fractures, the San Miguel County coroner said Friday.

Charlotte Fox, who was 61, attended an event earlier on the evening she died and “had quite a bit to drink,” said coroner Emile Sante.

“Alcohol contributed to her death,” he said.

Initial reports indicated that Fox fell down a flight of stairs, though that was erroneous, Sante said.

“That’s not what we believe happened,” he said. “I’m almost 100 percent positive she went over the railing and down the stairwell about three stories.”

Fox fell about 35 feet and landed squarely on her head, Sante said. Her home in Telluride “was a very vertical house” with four stories and a stairway in the middle, he said.

Fox’s house guests found her on the floor of the home, according to initial reports.

Fox survived the 1996 climbing disaster on Mount Everest that killed eight climbers. She and her then-boyfriend, Tim Madsen, summited the mountain, but had to huddle with their guides in a raging blizzard with temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees below zero.

“The cold was so painful, I didn’t think I could endure it anymore,” Fox said in Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book about the incident, “Into Thin Air.” “I just curled up in a ball and hoped death would come quickly.”

Fox, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, was the first American woman to climb three 8,000-meter peaks and was a fixture in the Aspen climbing and skiing scene from the early 1980s until she moved to Telluride in 2007. She worked as a ski patroller at Snowmass from 1982 until 2007.

Fox climbed Cho Oyu in Nepal, the sixth highest mountain in the world, and was the first American woman to reach the summit of Gasherbrum II, the 13th highest mountain on Earth located on the border between China and Pakistan, according to her biography on

She also climbed numerous high peaks in South America, as well as “Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc … the West Rib on Denali, Mount Rainer and all of Colorado’s fourteeners,” according to the bio.