Neil James Brosseau

Neil James Brosseau

The Denver man who survived two nights in the wilderness after getting lost on Pyramid Peak spent his first night on a mountain ledge and his second night under a tree.

It wasn’t until the third day of his ordeal that Neal James Brosseau came upon a group of hunters who helped him. The group was hiking with him back to safety when it came upon a party of Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers.

Further details gleaned after authorities interviewed Brosseau, following his rescue on Tuesday, were released by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday afternoon.

Brosseau, 66, was hiking with two family members when he separated from them Sunday afternoon, after members of the party became uncomfortable with continuing up the class 4 climb to the 14,026-foot peak 12 miles southwest of Aspen. 

“Brosseau told rescue personnel he separated from his hiking group because he wanted to summit Pyramid Peak, and thought he knew the correct route down,” says a Wednesday news release. “Brosseau said he started down and realized he went the wrong way, saying he got ‘completely turned around.’”

Brosseau got off the correct route, which takes hikers back to the Crater Lake Trail and the West Maroon Creek Valley. Instead, he found himself heading down the other side of the summit ridge toward the East Maroon Creek Valley.

“After Brosseau realized he went the wrong way, he focused on getting to the valley floor safely,” the release says. “Brosseau said he slowly descended the eastern aspect of Pyramid Peak, most of the time on his backside with his feet in front of him. Brosseau said he found a mountain ledge on which he slept the first night. He had used a tree for shelter the second night, wrapping himself in his T-shirt and parka for warmth each night.”

On day three, Brosseau reached the East Maroon Creek Valley floor, not realizing it was the wrong valley, the release says. He made a right turn, heading up the valley, believing it would return him to the Maroon Lake parking lot. 

Eventually that day, he bumped into a group of hunters.

“Brosseau and the hunters talked about their location and Brosseau’s journey down Pyramid,” the release says. “The hunters hiked Brosseau back to safety, crossing paths with MRA search members on the trail along the way.” The MRA team and Brosseau connected around 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, more than 48 hours after the hiker was last seen by his hiking party, according to the sheriff’s office. He was described as “in good spirits.”

“Brosseau had sustained some scratches and bruises during his time in the wilderness but had no life-threatening conditions,” the release says.

Like many backcountry rescues, Brosseau’s experience on Pyramid Peak is a case study in why it is never a good idea to voluntarily separate from your group during a wilderness expedition.

“It cannot be stressed enough by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain Rescue Aspen and Neil Brosseau himself the importance of staying with your climbing and hiking party,” the release says. “One of the most frequent contributors to backcountry rescues is voluntary separation.”

The sheriff’s office thanked the members of the various public safety agencies who contributed to Brosseau’s successful discovery, including the hunters who walked him out of the wilderness to safety. More than two dozen MRA personnel and two helicopter teams — from the Army National Guard’s HAATS facility in Gypsum and a hospital in Grand Junction — assisted in the search over Monday and Tuesday.