A 57-year-old climber’s body was retrieved from a treacherous Colorado mountain on Monday after a fatal plunge, rescuers said.
Vaughn Fetzer was last heard from on Sept. 18, the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office said.
He reached the summit of Blanca Peak — a mountain towering more than 14,000 feet tall — and fell to his death during his descent, undersheriff Shawn Woods told McClatchy News.
It is unclear how far he fell, but search and rescue teams are working to estimate a number, Woods said. It’s also unknown exactly when he fell.
Rescue efforts began on Sept. 20, but ended three days later due to the “hazardous terrain,” Alamosa Volunteer Search and Rescue said in a Facebook post.
But Fetzer’s friends were able to locate his body on Sunday east of Blanca Peak. Fetzer’s body was blocked by a large boulder, rescuers said, hiding his location from “almost every angle, including the air.”
On Monday, he was airlifted from the mountain and flown to the Costilla County Coroner.
The climb up Blanca Peak is steep, dangerous, rocky and involves a disappearing trail that requires scrambling over rocks, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Woods said the area is covered in scree, which are broken rock fragments. The loose and jagged material can cause someone to lose their footing.
“It’s like a minefield of ankle breakers,” he said.
A dislodged falling rock struck one rescuer on his right leg Wednesday while he was searching Gash Ridge, the rescue team said. He had to be airlifted from the area and taken to the emergency room.
Shortly after, rescue efforts halted.
“Our deepest condolences go to all those who knew and loved Vaughn Fetzer during this incredibly difficult time,” rescuers said. “AVSAR cannot thank Vaughn’s friends enough for aiding in the search to locate him.”
Blanca Peak is about 100 miles southwest of Pueblo.