Hiker killed in 200-foot fall in wilderness | SteamboatToday.com

Hiker killed in 200-foot fall in wilderness

Joanna Dodder/Steamboat Pilot

— A part time Steamboat Springs resident was killed Sunday when she fell 200 feet off the Continental Divide in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.

Lynne Schuchter, 47, a Steamboat and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident, suffered multiple injuries in the fall.

Schuchter was on a hiking trip with her husband, William, on the Continental Divide trail about five miles off of Buffalo Pass when they left the trail to rest near a ledge overlooking North Park, related Paul Pirnat, sheriff's investigator.

"She was reportedly dancing near the edge and lost her footing," said Pirnat. She landed on a ledge several hundred feet from the bottom of the immense rock wall.

Pirnat said Mr. Schuchter told officials his wife had been drinking alcohol, but the amount hasn't been determined. "Alcohol will affect you more at a higher altitude.," noted Pirnat, who said Mrs. Schuchter was standing at an elevation of 10,400, just above Teal Lake.

Mrs. Schuchter's husband broke his ankle attempting to reach her , then headed toward the trail and cam upon a U.S. Forest Service employee who helped him to the Summit Lake trailhead. Officials were notified of the accident around 6 p.m. Sunday.

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Schuchter led a Routt County Search & Rescue team to the site that evening, but it was 11:30 p.m. before they reached the body. Pirnat, also a deputy coroner, confirmed Lynne Schuchter was dead. A military helicopter out of Cheyenne assisted in Sunday's search.

The next morning, rescue workers headed up with hundreds of pounds of climbing and retrieval gear, using four-wheelers to shuttle in the equipment. The Forest Service had to give special permission to allow motorized vehicles in the wilderness, and forest employee Rob Schmitzer accompanied Search & Rescue crews.

A total of about 20 people were involved in the body retrieval, including two Routt sheriff's investigators and Jackson County Undersheriff Ray Alexander. The death occurred in Jackson County, but Routt County was equipped with people experienced in rock-climbing.

It was dark before the mission was completed. The crew hooked two working ropes to rock out-croppings at the top, then hooked the haul line to a large tree.

"It was a very rocky, rugged area," said Pirnat, who descended a rope to investigate the site. "Unless you had climbing equipment, you couldn't get to her."

Mitch Borolz, Doug Allen and John Witte repelled down to the body, while Guy Loughridge and Schmitzer traded off as safety officers, hanging over the ledge to make sure no one was in danger of being hit by the multitude of loose rocks. Pulley systems helped to reduce the danger.

"It's the most technical rock retrieval we've ever done," said Loughridge. "It wasn't a problem, it just takes a lot of time to set up and be safeā€¦ There were a number of times loose rocks came flying down. We had to be extremely careful not to hit anyone below."

It was a tremendous challenge"

Pirnat and Alexander praised the professionalism of the Routt County Search & Rescue team.

"Search & rescue did a superb job." said Pirnat. "I just think the community here ought to know it."

Investigations of deaths are routinely done in search cases, Pirnat said. "There's been nothing to contradict what (Schuchter) had to tell us," Pirnat reported

Mrs. Schuchter leaves behind two children, ages 5 and 7.

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