Three men rescued at night near North Maroon Peak trail | AspenTimes.com

Three men rescued at night near North Maroon Peak trail

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Three men stranded near a cliff off the North Maroon Peak trail Sunday afternoon were rescued without injury, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office reported Monday.

Members of the climbing party were identified as Dallas Hall, 20, of Windsor; Michael Bortnowski, 20, of Illinois; and Arthur Whitehead, 19, of Massachusetts. A Sheriff's Office supervisor said they are students at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

Hall's older brother, Eldon Hall, told the Greeley Tribune that his brother, Dallas, is an avid hiker and has climbed about 20 fourteeners in the state. Dallas Hall is a member of the School of Mines' mountain-biking team, his brother said.

Mountain Rescue Aspen and Sheriff's Office officials were alerted to the situation at around 4:30 p.m. Sunday after the men set off a personal locator beacon at about 4 p.m. The signal was first picked up by the U.S. Air Force and then relayed to local authorities.

Communications were established with the hikers via lights, the supervisor said.

"We flashed our lights at them; they flashed back," Deputy Jesse Steindler said Sunday evening. "Since we began flashing lights at them, which was right around the time it got dark, they have not moved from their location."

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A Flight for Life helicopter out of Frisco attempted to reach the location but the pilot was forced to turn back because of poor weather near Vail Pass, a Sheriff's Office statement said Monday. A Blackhawk helicopter from the High Altitude Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, operated by the Army National Guard, was called to assist rescuers with the operation and was deployed at around 7:30 p.m.

The Blackhawk was able to reach the Maroon Lake staging area and transported Mountain Rescue Aspen members to the GPS coordinates where visual contact of the party was made. The trio was spotted stranded above a cliff.

The three climbers were at a spot approximately 11,500 feet in elevation, about 100 feet below the standard climbing route. The area is dominated by cliff bands.

The men were rescued one-by-one by a field team that repelled down to them and raised them up to the trail amid poor weather and darkness. During the mission, which ended at 1:45 a.m., more than 6 inches of new snow fell.

North Maroon Peak is about 12 miles southwest of Aspen.

andre@aspentimes.com