Search suspended for Aspen woman missing in backcountry
Search and rescue teams have suspended efforts to find an Aspen woman reported missing northeast of Thomasville, but the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said the case remains an open investigation.
Dorothy L. Jenkins, 57, was reported missing on Aug. 18, from the Burnt Mountain area, the Sheriff’s Office said. A man who was camping with Jenkins reported that she departed their campsite on foot at about 2 p.m. the prior day and never returned.
The Vail Mountain Rescue Group, West Eagle Search and Rescue and Mountain Rescue Aspen searched the area surrounding the campsite over the next few days. No sign of Jenkins was found.
“Search efforts were called off on Thursday due to no clues to her whereabouts after a K9 search was conducted in that area,” said Eagle County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jessie Mosher. A K9 unit from Garfield County Sheriff’s Office was recruited for the search, she said.
The man who was with Jenkins was interviewed by detectives but was not taken into custody, according to Mosher. When asked if foul play is suspected in the case, Mosher simply said, “This is still an active investigation.”
The search effort was hampered by lack of information. The man was unable to tell searchers and law officers what direction Jenkins headed, according to Mosher. “He was preparing to take a nap at the time that Ms. Jenkins left the camp,” Mosher said. Jenkins and the man were camping in a vehicle.
The rescue teams conducted a grid search of the area but were unable to locate the woman.
Burnt Mountain is a massive peak that dominates the terrain between Elk Wallow campground on the North Fork of the Fryingpan River and Woods Lake to the north. Much of the area is in dark timber. Access to the area is off the rugged Forest Service Road 506, also known as the Burnt Mountain Road. The peak is in Eagle County, about two miles north of the Pitkin County boundary.
The identity of the man who was with Jenkins hasn’t been released by the Sheriff’s Office. Mosher said “there are a couple of factors” that played into his delay in reporting Jenkins’ disappearance until the next day, but she said she couldn’t discuss that point more because the case is under investigation. The man drove out of the Burnt Mountain area on Aug. 18 and called authorities, she said.
Jenkins was reported to be wearing a maroon tank top and light colored shorts. She didn’t have hiking or camping equipment with her.
The central mountains have experienced significant rain and cool night temperatures since Jenkins disappeared. Authorities won’t dismiss the possibility that the woman got a ride out of the area and is safe, but Mosher said the Sheriff’s Office has heard nothing since it provided her picture and the story about her disappearance to the media on Friday, Aug. 22.
“You would hope if someone was with her, they would contact us and tell us,” she said.
Eagle County is urging anyone with information about the incident or the missing person to call the sheriff’s office at 970-328-8500 or Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.