Three personnel with Mountain Rescue Aspen were caught in a rock slide while searching for a missing climber on Capitol Peak late Wednesday morning. They were injured in the slide. CBS4 reports searchers were looking for 32-year-old Kelly McDermot who was located roughly 500 feet below the south end of a ridge known as the “Knife Edge” near the summit of Capitol Peak.
Four Mountain Rescue Aspen members began their ascent above Pierre Lakes toward McDermott. According to a sheriff’s office press release, the team was struck by rocks likely dislodged by other climbers above them:
“Prior to beginning their climb toward McDermott, two rescuers had noticed recreational climbers further uphill from their location on the ridge near the south end of the ‘Knife Edge.’ The rescuers asked the pilot from the HAATS Blackhawk helicopter to try to signal to the climbers to move away from the ridge, as the recreational climbers would be directly uphill from the rescuers. The HAATS Blackhawk pilots flew to the ridge and motioned for the recreational climbers to move off the ridge, but the climbers didn’t appear to understand the request.
“After beginning their climb toward McDermott, rescuers heard someone yell ‘Rocks!’ from far above McDermott. Moments later, a massive rockfall, described as ‘an avalanche of rocks’ by one of the rescuers, came crashing down the mountain toward the four Mountain Rescue Aspen members. One rescuer was able to avoid being struck by the rocks while the other three rescuers each were struck by the flowing rockslide and sustained injuries. One rescuer received minor injuries to an extremity, while another sustained moderate injuries to the lower part of their body. The fourth rescuer sustained major injuries after being struck by a rock which knocked the rescuer roughly twenty feet through the air in a “rag doll,” or somersault motion. “
Helicopters immediately returned to the area and retrieved the injured personnel. The were evacuated to the Aspen Pitkin County Airport to waiting ambulances. The two least injured were taken to Aspen Valley Hospital and later released. The other team member, however, was eventually flown by medical helicopter to St. Anthony’s in Lakewood for emergency surgery.
“A plan to recover McDermott is being formulated, but the conditions on Capitol Peak may delay the recovery for days or weeks. Recent monsoon weather patterns have created even more instability and dangerous conditions on the mountain.” –Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office
Our thoughts are with Kelly McDermot’s friends and family and the rescuers injured attempting to recover the body.
SAR UPDATE: While searching for a missing climber on Capitol Peak, three MRA members were caught in a rockslide & injured. All individuals have been extricated from the field & taken to the hospital for evaluation. No additional info is available. Updates will come later.
— Pitkin Co. Sheriff (@PitkinSheriff) August 4, 2021
images from Colorado Search And Rescue Association/Facebook