Body of Missing Hiker Found in San Juan Mountains, CO

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Ben Brownlee, 26. Image courtesy Hinsdale County

The body of a Denver hiker reported missing late Sunday evening has been located in the San Juan Mountains near Lake City in Hinsdale County.

Ben Brownlee, 26, is presumed deceased after a body matching his description was located by helicopter approximately 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 5. The body was spotted and identified by friends approximately 75 to 100 feet below a steep rocky ridge southeast of Cooper Creek Peak. The ridge runs between Cooper Creek Trail and Silver Creek Trail off of County Rd 30, southwest of Lake City along the Alpine Loop. Brownlee’s family was notified immediately.

Recovery will begin Wednesday morning and will require specialized technical operations to reach and retrieve the body.

The search for Brownlee began early Monday morning after he was reported overdue from a solo hiking trip at midnight Sunday. His car was located at the trailhead of Redcloud and Sunshine Peak early Monday morning by Hinsdale County Sheriff Department. Helicopter sweeps of the area where Brownlee indicated he would be hiking took place Monday as well as on-the-ground searches by members of Hinsdale County Search and Rescue. On Tuesday, the search continued with more than a dozen search and rescue personnel on foot along with Brownlee’s family and friends. Brownlee was spotted with the use of a private helicopter chartered by his family.

Ben had been missing since Sunday. Credit: Hinsdale County Sheriff’s Office

State resources were in the process of being deployed to continue the search on Wednesday when notification of the discovery of Brownlee’s body was received. Hugh Zuker, Coordinator with Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR) arrived in Lake City Tuesday to assist in the search and recovery.

Brownlee was last seen by a fellow hiker on Saturday morning, October 3, hiking in the general area east of Redcloud Peak near Lake City. Brownlee was an experienced and avid hiker, whose general itinerary was to hike 13,000-foot peaks in the Lake City area of the San Juan Mountains.

Hinsdale County Undersheriff Jordan Kaminski and Deputy Search & Rescue Coordinator Mike Ralph oversaw the search and rescue operation from Lake City. Hinsdale County Search and Rescue members assisting in the operation included Patrick Tubbs, Logan Rhodes, Mabree McClung, Rachel Moore, Peter Nesbitt, Richard Hurd, Jerry Johnson, Brant Cunningham, Christian Hartman, and Wade Wandrey. Western State Search and Rescue personnel from Gunnison joining the search on Tuesday included Dominic Gamel, Matt Ziegler, Jayden Shelly, and Brandon Bashan. Operational support was provided by Hinsdale County Sheriff deputies Brennen Pantelo, Charles Ferris, and Tom Carl along with Barbara McDonald with Hinsdale County Sheriff Department and Hinsdale County EMS Director Buffy Witt.

lake city, Colorado
Lake City, CO

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3 thoughts on “Body of Missing Hiker Found in San Juan Mountains, CO

  1. Ben was such a kind person I am so sorry to hear this. Sending all my love to his friends and family.

  2. I can hardly stand thinking about the grief his family and friends are experiencing. My brother passed at age 25 so I am feeling intense empathy right now. Peace for his family.

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