Seven people died in the Elk Mountains outside Aspen in 2017, and an exhausted Mountain Rescue Aspen is implementing a new informational program to inform hikers about the risks of tackling the Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak and other mountains.
The sign at the trailhead to the Bells warns of “unbelievably deceptive” terrain that includes rotten, loose and unstable rocks, snowfields that “are no place for a novice climber,” and gullies that easily become death traps. “Do not climb if not qualified,” it says.
But with more and more people entering the backcountry, MRA is creating a program called Peak Awareness to spread the word about just how dangerous our 14ers can be. The program includes advice such as having both a planned route and a backup one, and being aware of cairns that can be misleading, and to look out for slippery rocks and high winds. And Aspen Skiing Co. employees, through their Environment Fund, recently decided to donate $5,000 to mountain safety education videos produced by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative.
Here are the names of those lost on local mountains in 2017:
• Jeffrey Bushroe, 27, of Tucson, Bell Cord couloir, Maroon Bells;
• Jake Lord, 25, of Parker, Capitol Peak;
• Rei Hwa Lee, 57, of Littleton, North Maroon Peak;
• Jeremy Shull, 35, of Parker, Capitol Peak;
• Ryan Marcil, 26, and Carlin Brightwell, 27, both of Aspen, Capitol Peak;
• Zackaria White, 21, of Pine, Capitol Peak.