On October 9, 2020, the Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG) recovered the body of a deceased hiker from a couloir below the summit of Mount Silverthorne, CO.
Ken May, an experienced hiker, left his vehicle at about 7:00 am on October 7th with an anticipated return of around 6:45 pm. He was equipped with a SPOT tracking device that sent automatic GPS position updates. A message was received from him at 1:20 pm stating that he was descending from the summit of Mount Silverthorne. His last coordinates were received at about 5:30 pm, placing him on the ridgeline descending from the mountain towards Salmon Lake. His device then stopped sending signals.
On Wednesday evening SCRG sent two teams into the Willow Lakes and Salmon Lake areas, but because of darkness and extremely technical terrain, they were unable to continue up to the ridge. After an all-night search failed to turn up any clues, additional search teams were fielded at first light on Thursday, including one team that was inserted by Flight For Life near the man’s last known coordinates.
At approximately 4:00 pm on the 8th, a field team found the body of Mr. May in very technical terrain below the ridge between Mount Silverthorne and the East Thorne. Due to the extreme nature of the terrain and the need for rescuer safety, it was determined that the body recovery should be attempted the following day.
At 7:00 am on the 9th, a total of 20 rescuers in two large field teams left the Willowbrook trailhead composed of personnel from SCRG, Park County Search and Rescue, Grand County Search and Rescue, Douglas County Search and Rescue, and Larimer County Search and Rescue, Inc. At 9:00 am, four additional SCRG rescuers were inserted on the saddle between Mount Silverthorne and East Thorne by Flight For Life. Two of those rescuers rappelled approximately 500 feet into a couloir on the Salmon Lake side to reach the subject, doglegging to one side of the couloir. This allowed them to avoid evacuating the subject via a steep and dangerous snow and ice field. They raised him back up to the ridge using a rope uphaul system set up by the remaining rescuers on the ridge plus another ground team that had ascended from Willow Lakes. Because the terrain on the Salmon Lake side was so technical, it was decided to lower the subject on the Willow Lakes side, which was a scree field rather than a boulder field. Another of the ground teams worked up the scree slope above Willow Lakes and preset anchors for the lowering system. This lowering (“scree evac”) totaled 1500 vertical feet over half a mile and took approximately four hours.
At approximately 9:00 pm, the rescuers were able to deliver the subject to Flight For Life, which landed at Willow Lakes. Flight For Life then delivered the subject to Saint Anthony Summit Medical Center.
Any further information will be released by the Summit County Coroner’s Office.
In addition to the rescue teams listed above, SCRG would like to thank Flight For Life Colorado and Colorado Search and Rescue Association – CSAR for their assistance, and as always, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for their continuous support.