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Man who died on Capitol Peak was climbing first 14er, likely followed same route as Aspen couple

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PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. — New details show the 21-year old man who died Saturday on Capitol Peak likely followed the same deadly north face couloir as the Aspen couple who died a week before, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said.

Capitol Peak was also the man’s first 14er.

“I think he did the same thing as the couple who died. There’s very little doubt in my mind,” deputy Anthony Todaro told the Aspen Times.

The north face couloir looks like it leads directly to Capitol Lake, but instead it cliffs-out.

There is no shortcut back to Capitol Lake. The standard route to the summit takes climbers across knife edge twice. It’s an out and back that can take three to six hours (each way in some cases), putting hikers at risk for afternoon thunderstorms.

Hikers are advised to summit by 9:30 a.m.

The sheriff’s office said the 21-year-old, who has not been identified, had no previous climbing experience. He also wore skateboard shoes and all cotton.

The sheriff’s office said the man argued with his climbing partner on how to descend, then separated before crossing knife edge. The sheriff’s office said the man was exhausted and was looking for a shortcut down.

The two reached the summit at 3:10 p.m. after leaving Capitol Lake at 9 a.m. The dead man’s climbing partner had some experience but nothing as technical that is needed on Capitol Peak.

“The 21-year old man and his climbing partner, Brandon Wilhelm of Pine, did not know each other well,” said Todaro, who interviewed Wilhelm.

“Wilhelm was supposed to climb the mountain with the man’s roommate, but that man was unable to go and the 21-year old volunteered to come along.”

Capitol Peak is not for beginners. Experience matters and hikers should go with someone who has climbed it before.

Climbers should not wear cotton, but instead choose technical wicking outerwear and Gore-Tex as a backup. Proper footwear is critical.

Hikers should be in excellent shape and forget about social media. Instead, they should pay attention to maintaining three points of contact at all times. All hand and footholds should be tested.