A 22-year-old Iowa man who separated from his partner and veered off the established route while descending Capitol Peak on Tuesday was safely pulled from the peak around 7:15 p.m. by a crew that included two members of the Mountain Rescue hoist team and four military personnel.
“It was a successful rescue,” said Sgt. Grant Jahnke, incident commander. A Black Hawk helicopter from the HAATS facility near Eagle County Airport was used in the rescue.
In 2017, five people lost their lives on Capitol over a period of 43 days. Prior to last summer, Capitol Peak claimed four fatalities over a decade-and-a-half.
Tuesday’s rescue had a happy ending.
Jahnke described the rescue this way: “He and a friend started out (Tuesday) morning and climbed to the summit of Capitol Peak. On their return, he was looking for a short cut. He and his partner disagreed on whether to stay on the standard route,” Jahnke said.
The partner stayed on the standard route and arrived safely at Capitol Lake. But the man who decided to take the alternate route “cliffed himself out,” according to Jahnke. “He said he couldn’t climb down and that it was too dangerous to climb up.”
Where the man ended up was in a place on Capitol Peak that had cell reception. The Iowan called 911 and reached dispatch, where information about the man’s latitude and longitude was gathered.
“We determined the safest course of rescue was to use the helicopter,” Jahnke said.
The Black Hawk helicopter arrived at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport within 30 minutes of the request for its service. The crew then flew to Capitol, located the subject and lowered one of the personnel down to the peak. The 22-year-old man was fitted with a harness, hoisted back up the helicopter and flown to the airport around 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday night. He had no injuries to speak of, according to Jahnke.
He said the rescued man made two mistakes, separating from his partner and attempting a shortcut.
“The takeaway from this one is, if you’re going up into unfamiliar areas, it’s irresponsible to veer off the standard, established route.”