Rock climber dies in accident in Summit County

A rescue and recovery team at Officers Gulch in Summit County.
A rescue and recovery team at Officers Gulch in Summit County.(Summit County Rescue Group)
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 6:29 AM MDT
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SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - A man was killed over the weekend after a fatal mishap while rock climbing at a popular spot just outside Frisco.

According to Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG), the climber’s body was recovered Sunday in a boulder field at the base of a cliff.

“SCRG and SCSO [Summit County Sheriff’s Office] extend their deepest condolences to all the loved ones of the deceased,” the rescue group said in a social media post Sunday night.

The 29-year-old had set out for a climb at Officers Gulch early Saturday morning and had last been in touch with a friend at 5 p.m., when he called to say he was on a rock and about to head down. When hours passed and he hadn’t returned, the friend drove to the trailhead and saw the climber’s car still parked there. Alarmed, the friend called 911. A search and rescue team was put together and got to Officers Gulch at 11:30 Saturday night. The trailhead is located just off of I-70.

“Members searched along the bike path between Officers Gulch and Frisco, and along a climbers’ trail known locally as Halfway Rock. At approximately 2 a.m., SCRG’s mission coordinator made the decision to continue the search at first light in the interest of rescuer safety, and because darkness and traffic noise from I-70 made the possibility of seeing or hearing the missing party unlikely,” the rescue group said.

The following morning, a search and rescue team returned to the site.

“The missing party’s family was able to supply a last known location from a shared phone location app along with a video the subject had taken the day before, and this greatly aided the search,” SCRG said.

Through a combination of a ground search and an aerial search with a drone, the climber’s body was located. A technical team from SCRG set up a rigging system to bring him down from the boulder field.

Though the end result was one nobody ever wants to see, the climber and his family did several things that greatly aided the search, SCRG said.

“We would ... like to note that the deceased and his family did several things right that helped us find him and bring him back to his family in a reasonably short period of time. By letting his friend know an expected return time, the subject ensured that a search began quickly and that searchers knew an approximate area to search. And by sending a video to his family and having a shared phone location app, he allowed searchers to pinpoint his location quickly once the family was able to share this information with us. These are practices other backcountry recreationists can learn from, and although this incident ended tragically, we also know that a search which continues for a long time or is unresolved altogether is an even more difficult situation for friends and family.”

The climber’s identity and official cause of death have not been released at this time.