Fourth 14er death of 2017 re­news drive to ed­u­cate hik­ers

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kevin Fixler

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.

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