PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. — A 57-year-old woman fell to her death last weekend on North Maroon Peak, the third fatality on a Colorado 14er in less than a month, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said.
Rei Hwa Lee, 57, left her Front Range home at 1 a.m. Saturday and arrived at the Maroon Bells parking area about 12 miles southwest of Aspen four hours later.
Lee’s family called the sheriff’s office on Sunday night to report she was overdue from the hike.
On Monday, the all-volunteer Mountain Rescue Aspen crew, the Summit County Flight for Life and Eco Flight searched the expansive Maroon Bells Wilderness area by air and ground because it was not known where Lee was hiking.
Several people wrote on a website dedicated to 14ers in Colorado that they saw Lee on her way up the summit of North Maroon Peak on Saturday morning.
The search effort focused on that area on Tuesday. Shortly after a High Altitude Aviation Training Site helicopter was launched, Lee was spotted on the north face of the peak at about 12,600 feet.
Two members of Mountain Rescue Aspen and a HAATS team in a Blackhawk helicopter recovered Lee’s body and took it to Aspen/Pitkin County Airport to be transported to the Aspen Valley Hospital morgue.
The sheriff’s office said it’s unclear where Lee fell or if she reached the summit of the 14,014-foot peak.
Lee’s death is the third in less than a month on Colorado 14ers.
On July 15, 25-year-old Jake Lord suffered a fatal fall on Capitol Peak, also in the Elk Mountains. On Aug. 6, a 35-year-old man died while climbing the east side of knife edge ridge while ascending Capitol Peak.
On May 27, the body of Jeff Bushroe, a Fort Carson soldier, was found by a hiker in the Maroon Bells Wilderness area.
The official cause of death was hypothermia after Bushroe fell from the Grand Couloir.