32-year-old Kelly McDermott from Madison, Wisconsin was last seen at the Capitol Peak parking lot at 8:00 pm on Saturday, July 31. His plan was to make an early summit of Colorado’s Capitol Peak on Sunday—but he never returned from the attempt. His body was later spotted from a rescue helicopter on Wednesday. Mountain Rescue Aspen team members then prepared to recover McDermott, whose cause of death still remains unclear. But the MRA volunteers weren’t prepared for what happened next.
When rescuers went to recover McDermott’s body on Wednesday, three members of Mountain Rescue Aspen became injured by “massive rockfall” that was likely triggered by recreational climbers above them on the Knife Edge, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. One MRA volunteer sustained “serious injuries,” and was flown to a Denver-area hospital for emergency surgery, according to the news release.
The body of Kelly McDermott remained in a “precarious spot” about 500 feet below the Knife Edge as rescuers were forced to bail due to the injuries they sustained from the rockfall, The Aspen Times reports. It remains unclear when the recovery will be re-attempted.
“Any future information about the recovery of McDermott will be released if and when conditions allow for the safe involvement of rescue personnel,” the new release states.
Capitol Peak is a 14,130-foot mountain in the Elk Mountains near Aspen. The Aspen Times reports that in 2017, five people died in six weeks attempting the summit. Three of those deaths came in the Knife Edge area—the same area where McDermott’s body was found.