Body of Hiker Without Mountaineering Boots, Crampons, or Helmet Recovered From Snowy Couloir on Aspen, CO, 14er

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Starting up the Conundrum Couloir. Photo credit: Clay Malott / SnowBrains

The body of a 37-year-old Aspen, CO, resident was recovered from the Conundrum Couloir between Castle and Conundrum Peaks on the morning of August 2, 2023. The recovery was a two-day effort between the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office, Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA), and Care Flight.

The employer of the missing hiker reported them overdue on July 30, 2023, at about 2:20 PM, when they failed to arrive at work that day. The employer stated the decedent had discussed going for a hike on July 29, 2023; however, no one knew any more information about their plans.

On July 31, 2023, The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office learned friends of the overdue hiker found a rental car similar to the car rented by the overdue hiker at the end of Castle Creek Road in Pitkin County. 

On July 31, 2023, working with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, MRA deployed teams into the Castle and Conundrum Peaks area to look for the overdue hiker. As teams searched, an unrelated climber from Boulder, Colorado, told a search team they saw shoes and legs protruding from the snow while ascending the Conundrum Couloir.

After speaking with the climber, an MRA search team geared up to climb the couloir and locate what was believed to be the overdue hiker. It was not possible to determine identification, as the deceased was wedged into the skier’s left of the couloir against the rock face and mostly covered by snow, with only a small portion of the lower body visible.

MRA was unable to attempt recovery at that time due to worsening weather conditions and exited the field. Recovery plans are developed that prioritize responder safety, and looking forward, there was a much-improved weather window later in the week.

Conundrum Peak and the Conundrum Couloir from Castle Peak’s northeast ridge. Photo credit: Clay Malott / SnowBrains

On August 2, 2023, the weather offered a chance at recovery efforts. One MRA team climbed to the ridgeline of Castle Peak, and another team climbed past Castle Peak itself at 14,274 feet to enter the Conundrum Couloir from above. The decedent’s body was lowered through the couloir to vehicles waiting at the base of the snowfields. describes the Conundrum Couloir as a Class 3 Steep Snow route with a climb of 500 feet of elevation beginning at over 13,000 feet. “With crampons, an axe, and a helmet on your head, begin climbing,” states the website about the couloir. says the couloir reaches approximately 47 degrees pitch at the route’s crux.

The recovered hiker was not wearing mountaineering boots, crampons, or a helmet. MRA did recover an ice axe in the rocks above the couloir.

Identification of the deceased hiker shall be released by the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office at a later time.

Castle and Conundrum Peaks are 12.5 miles up Castle Creek Road from Aspen and then another approximately five miles up Forest Road 102, according to the website.

Forest Road 102 is only accessible by highway-legal vehicles, as Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) are prohibited. Only high-clearance vehicles driven by experienced offroaders should attempt to drive to the uppermost parking area at the Castle Peak trail, as the road has several high-consequence sections.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office encourages those interested in visiting the backcountry to visit‘s Education and Essentials page to learn more about traveling safely in the Aspen backcountry. Visit to study ascent information and maps of any fourteen-thousand-foot peak in Colorado before your hike. Always carry a two-way communication device, such as InReach or Spot if you are traveling out of cellular phone service.

conundrum couloir, Colorado, aspen,
Conundrum Couloir, between Conundrum Peak and Castle Peak, CO.

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