South Maroon, Sept. 2014

A photo of Maroon Peak from the standard climbing route, taken in September 2014. A man died Wednesday following a fall while descending the peak, which is still covered in snow in some areas. 

Emergency personnel on Thursday afternoon worked to retrieve the body of a 61-year-old man from a steep section of Maroon Peak after he fell to his death Wednesday evening.

At 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Jesse Steindler, patrol captain with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said a state firefighting helicopter was refueling at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in preparation for the flight to the area where the man fell. 

He said that about eight members of Mountain Rescue Aspen and a handful of sheriff’s deputies, along with a representative of the county coroner’s office, also were involved in the operation. MRA personnel went to the site Thursday morning to prepare the body for the airlift.

Steindler declined to identify the man, other than to say he was not a resident of the Aspen area. He was descending South Maroon Peak along the standard route Wednesday when he fell about 200 feet. The terrain is steep and there is a considerable amount of snow in the area, Steindler said.

The man had been hiking with a party of three other men. Three of the four, including the man who would later fall, made the climb to the summit while another stayed behind. The man who stayed behind was in contact with the climbing party via walkie-talkie, Steindler said. The fall occurred before the full group reunited.

The incident occurred at about 12,600 feet, according to Steindler. The summit of South Maroon Peak is 14,163 feet and the climb is considered difficult among the state’s 14er enthusiasts.

The man who did not climb to the summit hiked out of the area at around 7 p.m. Wednesday to report the incident to authorities, Steindler said. The other two men hiked out of the area early Thursday morning.

Steindler said rescue workers were counting on a window of one or two hours of stable weather Thursday afternoon to retrieve the man because it appeared a storm might be moving in.

The climbing death is the first of the season for the Aspen area. The Aspen Daily News will update this story as more information becomes available.

Andre is a reporter for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at andre@aspendailynews.com.