August 17th— Susana DeForest, a student from Collegeville, PA, took a vacation to visit three friends who had moved out to Colorado.
The group decided to hike the popular Conundrum Trail outside of Aspen, which runs for 17 miles out-and-back at altitudes of 8,000 to 11,200 feet. A set of hot springs sit at the end of the route, and take 6-8 hours to get to, and 3-6 hours to exit from.
But before the friends reached their destination, DeForest fell ill, and began to vomit. The group set up a tent and put her inside. Two descended back down the trail for help, while a third stayed with Susana.
By the time the duo reached the bottom and called for help, it was already 10:45 PM, said the Pitkin County Sheriff’s office. Rescuers were sent out on foot and by helicopter, which could not land due to strong winds in the area.
A second helicopter was dispatched and finally reached DeForest and her friend at 3:30 AM; but by that time, DeForest was dead.
The Pitkin County Coroner has not yet released a cause of death, but DeForest’s mother wrote in a public Facebook post that her daughter suffered from acute altitude sickness.
Although, acute mountain sickness (AMS) is not what kills people. Its more developed forms, called high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), are the culprits.
A similar case happened earlier this month as well, when an 18 year-old Boy Scout died of altitude sickness in Utah.