Missing couple found dead Tuesday below Capitol Peak summit near Aspen | SteamboatToday.com

Missing couple found dead Tuesday below Capitol Peak summit near Aspen

Jason Auslander/Aspen Times

The 14,130-foot Capitol Peak is located about 14 miles west of Aspen in the Elk Mountains.

The bodies of an Aspen couple missing since Sunday were found Tuesday afternoon at the base of the north face of Capitol Peak, an official said.

A helicopter crew spotted the two bodies about 2:25 p.m., said Jesse Steindler, a commander with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, and they were brought to the airport just before 6 p.m.

While confirmation of their identities has not yet been made by the coroner, officials were 99.9 percent sure it is the couple missing since Sunday afternoon, based on clothing and equipment found with the bodies, he said.

While posts about the missing couple were on Facebook and other websites Tuesday, The Aspen Times is not releasing their names until the next of kin has been notified. Families of the victims were on their way to Aspen on Tuesday evening, Steindler said.

The couple in their mid-to-late 20s were last seen very close to the summit of 14,130-foot Capitol Peak, Steindler said.

“Given where the bodies were found, it is probable they fell off somewhere near (Capitol’s summit),” he said. “Generally speaking, they were found below the summit.”

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The couple planned to hike Capitol on Sunday, according to friends, and were reported missing when they did not return Sunday afternoon, though there was some speculation on social media that they might have stayed an extra night to see Monday’s eclipse.

According to a news release from the Sheriff's Office, because their plans were "somewhat tentative and there was no confirmed medical emergency it was decided that the urgency to initiate a search was not great. By Monday evening when the couple had not yet returned the urgency increased."

Volunteers with Mountain Rescue Aspen went out about 8 a.m. Tuesday and spent the day searching for the couple, according to the news release. Helicopter crews from CareFlight and the National Guard were involved in the search.

A post Tuesday morning by MRA on the 14ers.com site said they were last seen about 11:30 a.m. Sunday around 13,900 feet on their way to the summit. Witnesses interviewed by the sheriff’s office said they’d seen the pair near the Knife Edge, a 100-foot-long obstacle very close to the summit, Steindler said.

“Part of the problem was we could never find anyone who saw them on the descent,” he said.

The couple are the third and fourth deaths on Capitol Peak this summer. Since 2003, eight people have died climbing the mountain.

On Aug. 6, 35-year-old Jeremy Shull of Parker fell from the east side of the ridge between K2 and the Knife Edge. On July 15, Jack Lord, 25, also from Parker died when a boulder he was holding gave way on the ridge between Capitol and Mt. Daly.

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