Injured MRA member faces long rehab after Capitol Peak incident |

Injured MRA member faces long rehab after Capitol Peak incident

A Mountain Rescue Aspen member who was hit by rocks last week while trying to recover a body from Capitol Peak suffered multiple fractures and faces months of physical therapy.

That’s according to a text message the injured MRA volunteer sent this weekend to Parker Lathrop, director of operations at the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

The woman’s injuries “included a comminuted femur fracture, multiple pelvis breaks and a fractured vertebrae,” according to the message provided to the Times by Lathrop with permission from the MRA member.

“The medical team anticipates multiple weeks of in-patient rehab followed by months of physical therapy,” the message says. “Rescuer and teammates are hopeful with some luck they will be able to return to normal activities and MRA duty in six months to a year.”

A “comminuted” fracture occurs when a bone breaks into two or more pieces, and generally happens after blunt force injuries like a fall or a car accident, according to online sources.

The injured MRA’s members name, age and any other details about her or her injuries have not been released and were not available Monday.

She was hurt Wednesday after attempting to recover the body of Kelly McDermott, a 32-year-old Madison, Wisconsin, resident who was found the same day about 500 feet below the climbing route up Capitol Peak. McDermott had been reported missing Sunday.

The injured MRA volunteer was a member of a four-person team who climbed up toward McDermott’s location from Pierre Lakes on Wednesday but were caught in what a news release called “an avalanche of rocks” likely triggered by recreational climbers above them. One volunteer avoided the rockfall, while two received minor to moderate injuries that didn’t require hospitalization.

“The fourth rescuer sustained major injuries after being struck by a rock, which knocked the rescuer roughly 20 feet through the air in a ‘rag doll’ or somersault motion,” according to Wednesday’s Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office news release. “The rescuers were able to administer immediate medical care to their seriously injured team member, and the … (Army National Guard) Blackhawk helicopter quickly returned to their location and used a hoist to pick up the rescuers and transport them to Aspen-Pitkin County airport.”

The seriously injured MRA member was later helicoptered to a hospital in the Denver area.

McDermott’s body remains on Capitol Peak in a precarious and dangerous position, said Alex Burchetta, Pitkin County Undersheriff. In fact, his body is located in an area MRA and Sheriff’s Office personnel have not seen climber’s bodies before on the treacherous peak.

“What I gather from talking to MRA (members) is that it’s in an unusual position,” he said.

Burchetta said Monday he was scheduled to meet with MRA personnel later in the day to talk about options in recovering the body. Such an operation won’t go forward until it’s deemed safe for MRA volunteers, he said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.