Fourth 14er death of 2017 renews drive to educate hikers
The allure of Colorado’s of 14,000-foot mountains has increasingly acted as a siren song to natives and visitors each summer — and over the weekend they claimed another life.
Jake Lord, 25, fell 300 feet Saturday morning while hiking with a friend as they approached from the backside of Capitol Peak’s summit southwest of Aspen. Emergency responders arriving by Flight For Life helicopter two hours later pronounced the Parker man dead.
A compilation of news reports confirms him as the fourth death this year on one of Colorado’s preeminent peaks, with the others occurring at Maroon Bells, Mount Princeton and Longs Peak. Two more hikers went missing overnight Sunday after one had a serious but nonlife-threatening fall on the trail to Mount of the Holy Cross. The Vail Mountain Rescue Group found them Monday.
At least three people — and likely a fourth — died in 2016 across the 50-plus iconic mountains within the state’s borders. With an estimated quarter-million hiker use-days each year, 14er fatalities remain extremely low, but due to the very nature of the pursuit, danger can strike at any moment.
“They’re risky endeavors,” said Charles Pitman, a mission coordinator for the Summit County Rescue Group. “Sometimes accidents just happen and that’s something you can’t avoid, but there are also times when shortcuts are taken. You have to be prepared to call it a day when you get to the limits of your abilities.”
Anecdotally, 14er “peak-bagging” has become more in vogue in the past decade, and appears on the rise as Colorado’s population continues to boom.
According to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, the most trafficked 14ers are: Grays and Torreys peaks, and Mounts Bierstadt and Elbert, with 20,000 to 25,000 annual visits each; Mounts Lincoln, Bross and Democrat, and Quandary Peak with 15,000 to 20,000.