VAIL — James McGrogan could probably see help from the spot where he fell to his death.
McGrogan, 39, was a mile and a half east from the Booth Falls trailhead, where his body was found at the bottom of an ice chute.
But he was 4½ miles east of the trail he was supposed to be on, the one leading up to Eiseman Hut, where he was headed with three of his friends.
He and his friends were headed up Spraddle Creek toward Eiseman when he got separated from them.
Somehow, he got off of the trail leading up to Eiseman Hut. Instead of turning around and following his tracks back, he kept going.
McGrogan was carrying a split board, a snowboard that divides lengthwise, and was wearing the boots that went with it.
He climbed a ridge and as he descended the other side, it appears he slipped on some ice, fell and died. Authorities say he most likely died instantly.
Authorities say they’re not sure of the spot from which he fell, but he wasn’t more than a mile and a half from the Booth Falls trailhead. But it was an impossible mile and a half; he was in deep snow, 8 feet deep in some spots.
One of the most frustrating things, searchers said, was that they could see Vail from their search area.
You can also see town, or parts of it, from where McGrogan’s body was found, authorities said.
McGrogan went missing March 14. When his three friends arrived at Eiseman Hut and he wasn’t there, they immediately began searching for him.
They contacted the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office early that afternoon.
Vail Mountain Rescue and other groups immediately launched their search. They spent more than 1,000 hours scouring an 18-square mile area, but that’s not where McGrogan was.
Storms forced the search to be called off after five days.
McGrogan’s body was spotted midday Thursday by three local backcountry skiers headed up that trail. A crew of searchers recovered the body late Thursday.
Eagle County coroner Kara Bettis confirmed Friday morning that the body was McGrogan’s. Results from an autopsy to determine cause of death should be available next week, said the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
McGrogan is a 1993 graduate of Chesterton Indiana High School and a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is an emergency room doctor in Mishawaka, Ind., in northern Indiana just west of South Bend.
He and his wife are the parents of two young children.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at (970) 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.