11 Deaths On Colorado 14ers This Year Causes Authorities To Plan Public Awareness Campaign

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Photo from the body recovery on Capital Peak, CO. image: mountain rescue aspen

There have been 11 deaths and over 30 rescues so far this summer on Colorado’s highest peaks. State and County agencies are trying to figure out if this is a rising trend or an anomaly.

Questions have been arising to the nature of this sad reality…

How are all these adventurers getting off route, lost and injured?

Social Media:

  • Users sharing breathtaking photos on top of peaks(making it look easy)
  • Encouraging people to get outside more 
  • Taking risks to get the perfect photo 
  • Bragging rights 

Outdoor Blogs:

  • Lot’s of information for people to weed through
  • Unqualified people giving advice
  • Novice or Beginner climbers getting information they don’t know how to use due to lack of experience

Lack of Signage, Warnings, Rating Systems:

  • Some argue for more signage
  • Some argue for a rating system for walking, hiking and climbing routes
  • Public Agencies can only warn people so far and say existing signage is pretty clear about dangers
  • People will make their own decisions and are responsible for being prepared

Colorado State Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Industry Offices issued a Press Release on August 31, 2017 addressing the overwhelming amount of fatalities and rescues on Colorado 14 er’s this Summer. The issue has been dubbed a Public Safety issue for Pitkin County where seven of the states most technically difficult 14ers are.

Local search and rescue organizations are also wondering what they can do in order to further educate the public. Mountain Rescue Aspen is looking to expand their public safety campaigns in a similar way to their avalanche awareness program.  The “Peak Awareness” campaign would highlight similar tenants of the “Know Before You Go” campaign used in backcountry skiing/ riding and mountaineering to know the conditions and be prepared for the planned adventure as well as if the adventure veers from the plan.

The state and it’s partnering agencies know that the draw of adventurers to Colorado is based off of the extreme nature of the mountains and that they have an inherent duty to inform the public of risk. The State Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Agencies issued a press release on August 31,2017 addressing the issue:

“Big questions remain about how we identify and classify technical terrain and advise climbers of varying skill levels on making a thoughtful and data-driven go/no go decision. We hope to build a culture, similar to the messaging around lightning risks, that can guide people in making an educated and life-saving decision on whether they have the skill level to climb, based on a series of questions such as:

* Can you reverse what you are thinking about climbing up/over to get back down?

* Is this something you have done before?

* Have you researched the technical nature of the trail and route?

* What is your medical training for any potential incident?

* Have you packed necessary resources for “extra time out” as moving over technical terrain slows you down significantly?” – FOURTEENERS: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – A LETTER FROM CO TOURISM AND OUTDOOR REC


Other Related Articles:


  • March 19, Pawel Abramczyk, 39, Thornton, fell on descent while winter mountaineering on Longs Peak.
  • April 10, Matthew Lackey, 31, Boulder, loose rock triggered fall while rock climbing on Mount Princeton.
  • May 27, Jeffrey Bushroe, 27, Tucson, soldier at Fort Carson, fell while hiking solo in Grand Couloir in Maroon Bells area.
  • July 15, Jake Lord, 25, Parker, fell while climbing up Capitol Peak.
  • July 28, Barney Cruz, 27, Texas, fell while hiking Mount Blanca
  • Aug. 5, Rei Hwa Lee, 57, Littleton, fell while hiking solo north face of North Maroon Peak.
  • Aug. 6, Jeremy Shull, 35, Parker, fell while ascending Capitol Peak, between K2 and Knife Edge.
  • Aug. 22, Ryan Marcil, 26, and Carlin “Carly” Brightwell, 27, fell while descending Capitol Peak after taking a wrong turn during the descent.
  • Aug. 26, Zackaria White, 21, Pine, fell while descending Capitol Peak after taking a wrong turn during the descent.
  • Sept. 3, Jamie Rupp, 54, Douglas, Wyo., fell while climbing Challenger Point in Sangre de Cristo Range.”

– The Denver Post, Article: With 11 fatalities on Colorado’s fourteeners this season, “it’s time to do something”



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