American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Handhold Came Loose, Fall on Rock, Colorado, Capitol Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998


Colorado, Capitol Peak

On August 17, while approaching the summit of 14,130 foot Capitol Peak along the Knife Edge (the standard route), a 36-year old male mountaineer from Denver fell an estimated 1,000 feet down to a cirque on the eastern side of the peak. The fall was reported about 1030 by another climber with a radio. The victims body was spotted later that day by a search plane and recovered by a team inserted by helicopter. He had died of massive trauma from the fall.


Capitol Peak is one of the more solid peaks in the Elk Mountains, comprised of basalt rather than the loose, sedimentary rock typical of the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. However, the approaches to the summit are extremely exposed on all sides. The victim's climbing partners indicated that a hold had broken loose when the victim grabbed it, and that he had no chance for recovery. (Source: Hal Clifford, Mountain Rescue— Aspen, Inc.)

(Editor's Note: The Knife Edge is a place where climbers of all abilities commonly rope up.)

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