Mother: Daughter died of ‘acute altitude sickness’ on Conundrum trail

Staff reports
Susie DeForest
Facebook photo

The 20-year-old woman who died late Aug. 17 or early Aug. 18 hiking on the Conundrum Creek Trail suffered from “acute altitude sickness,” her mother said on social media.

Susanna (Susie) DeForest from Collegeville, Pennsylvania, was on the popular trail to the Conundrum Hot Spring with friends when she became ill late Aug. 17 and died that night or the morning of Aug. 18.

Her mother, Kate DeForest, posted Tuesday that Susie “suffered acute altitude sickness. Her friends who were with her did all they could to get help to her in time. We have made a trip to Colorado to see her one last time and visit a place she loved here.”

The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office has not released an official cause of death.

DeForest had just completed her sophomore year studying graphic design at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design in Collegeville; she was named to the dean’s list during the spring 2017 semester.

“Susie was as student here last year, and while she did not re-enroll for the fall, she was a member of our community and we are very heartbroken at her death,” said Kathy Smyser, director of communications for the college.

DeForest was hiking with three friends who are all from the Pennsylvania area, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Todaro said. Two of the friends now live in Dillon and the third attends the School of Mines in Golden, he said.

Todaro said the group had the proper gear, water and food and were prepared to spend the night at the hot springs and hike out the next day. However, during the hike up, DeForest became nauseated and began vomiting, so they set up a tent, put her inside and tried to make her comfortable, he said.

In the meantime, two of the women hiked out to get help, leaving the third with DeForest, Todaro said. They were able to notify emergency dispatchers about 10:45 p.m.

Volunteers with Mountain Rescue Aspen were dispatched into the field and a helicopter was dispatched to pick up DeForest, he said. But when the helicopter arrived in the area it wasn’t able to land, which may have been because of weather issues, Todaro said. By the time another helicopter returned just before 5 a.m., DeForest was dead, he said.

Kate Deforest wrote that a memorial service is planned for Sunday in Pennsylvania.