Fifth climber dies on Capitol Peak this year

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. -- A 21-year-old man died after falling 600 to 700 feet on Capitol Peak on Saturday, the fifth death on the popular 14er near Aspen this year, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office said Sunday.

The man was reported overdue by his climbing partner about 8:45 a.m. Sunday. The two became separated at the knife edge ridge when they argued on which route to take down the mountain.

Brandon Wilhelm of Pine told authorities he and his unidentified climbing partner reached the top of the 14,131-foot peak about 3 p.m. Saturday.

As the two were descending, Wilhelm said he and his climbing partner disputed on the proper way to get down.

Wilhelm told authorities he took the standard route, while his partner took a more direct and dangerous route toward the lake where there was a cliff band.

A search and rescue team found the man's body about 12:15 p.m. Sunday. Authorities said the man suffered injuries that were consistent with a fall from the cliff band.

The man's identity will be released after next of kin have been notified.

Before this season, there were an average of four deaths per 10 years on Capitol Peak. The sheriff's office said the concern is people aren't following the rules of the mountain.

On July 15, 25-year-old Jake Lord fell up to 328 feet while climbing Capitol Peak.

On Aug. 6, 35-year-old Jeremy Shull of Parker fell after falling from the east side of knife edge while ascending the mountain.

And on Aug. 20, Aspen coupleĀ Carlin Brightwell, 27, and Ryan Marcil, 26, died while attempting to summit Capitol Peak when they fell nearly 200 feet.

The sheriff's office said there is not an alternate route down the north face of Capitol Peak unless climbers have extensive experience, and the necessary ropes and gear for high-angle mountain climbing.