New details emerge in young Aspen couple’s deaths on Capitol Peak
Friends of the Aspen couple who died climbing Capitol Peak last weekend are planning memorial services this weekend to celebrate their lives.
Ryan Marcil, 26, and Carlin Brightwell, 27, died Sunday on the mountain, and an official with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office released new details on Wednesday about what might have led to their apparent fall from the mountain.
Friends spent Wednesday remember the couple and planning memorials for Friday and Sunday.
A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday at a location to be determined soon, said Christina King, director of Aspen Strong, a mental health advocacy nonprofit based in Aspen. A second memorial will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Aspen Emporium and Flying Circus shop where Brightwell worked.
Friends had hoped to hold Friday’s memorial at Smuggler Mountain Park, but that site already is booked. Mourners are being asked to bring a candle.
“Ryan and Carlin both strongly believed in the mission of Aspen Strong and worked tirelessly to connect people with mental health resources and to promote the practice of mental hygiene in the Roaring Fork Valley,” King said in an email to The Aspen Times. “All of us at Aspen Strong, like so many people in our community, are feeling shocked, stunned and so very sad.
“We want to encourage those touched by this painful loss to reach out to other people.”
In lieu of flowers, family members have requested people make donations to Aspen Strong in memory of the couple.
King said the first time she met Marcil, who served on the board of Aspen Strong, she knew he was “a voice for our community and someone who spoke the same language as me.”
She said her favorite memory of him was the first time they skinned up Aspen Mountain together in January.
“We laughed and cried about our life’s struggles and bonded in a way I will never forget,” King said in a text message. “He got me and I got him!”
Marcil and Brightwell had been dating for six or seven months and had moved in together, appeared to be fully in love and were talking about marriage, friends have told the Times. Marcil worked at Surefoot in Aspen during the winter, while Brightwell worked at Aspen Emporium, an eclectic retail shop on Main Street.
Shae Singer, Emporium owner, recalled Wednesday the first time she met Brightwell almost four years ago. The store was packed with people, she was busy with one customer and dealing with another on the phone “when the door opened and there she was in an orange dress with a huge smile,” Singer said in a text message.
Singer said she asked the girl in the orange dress if she was Carlin.
“She said yes, and gave me one of her famous tight hugs and said, ‘I am here and this is perfect'” Singer said. “”I will work here and make it my own.'”
Brightwell was in the process of purchasing the store and truly making it her own, she said.
“Carlin never met a person she did not greet with a smile and hug,” Singer said. “Every time I saw her she hugged me and shared a bit of her joy for life.”
Marcil was originally from Vero Beach, Florida, and previously worked in finance in New York City before moving to Aspen, friends said Tuesday. Like his girlfriend, he was described as charming, outgoing and athletic.
Attempts Wednesday to reach members family members of both Marcil and Brightwell were not successful.
Brightwell’s friends started a GoFundMe page Wednesday to support her family, which had raised more than $7,300 by the evening.
Brightwell and Marcil told friends they planned to hike in to Capitol Lake on Saturday and climb Capitol Peak on Sunday. They were last spotted, according to a Mountain Rescue Aspen post Tuesday on 14ers.com, about 11:30 a.m. at 13,900 feet on their way to the summit. Another person later posted a photo on the site reportedly of the couple in that area of the mountain on the way up.
They were supposed to be back in Aspen by Sunday afternoon, though their plans were tentative and friends thought they might have stayed to witness Monday’s solar eclipse, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and social media posts Tuesday.
Volunteers with Mountain Rescue Aspen began searching for Marcil and Brightwell on Tuesday morning. A helicopter crew spotted the bodies about 2:25 p.m. Tuesday.
Initially, an official with the Sheriff’s Office said the bodies were found below Capitol Peak’s north face. However, upon further consultation with MRA volunteers, it appears the bodies were discovered closer to the area below the Knife Edge, a 100-foot stretch of narrow ridge with precipitous drops on either side, Jesse Steindler, a commander with the Sheriff’s Office, said Wednesday.
“I think they possibly sought an alternate route that skirts around the Knife Edge on the north side (of the ridge),” Steindler said. “That makes the most sense.”
It’s unclear why they might have taken a different route, though the Knife Edge can be intimidating. It’s also not clear how far the couple fell or from where, he said, though it’s obvious they did not survive the fall, which was at least 200 feet.
Steindler said he thinks the fall may have occurred during the early evening hours Sunday. That’s because the Sheriff’s Office has received three reports from people camped at Capitol Lake on Sunday night who heard screams, rockfall and a man and woman shouting to each other, Steindler said.
One man said he walked down to the lake about 6:30 p.m. and heard a woman scream for a full minute, he said. That man thought the scream came from high on the mountain and, perhaps, the Knife Edge area, Steindler said.
Another man who was with the man who reported the minute-long scream said he heard a woman scream about 6:20 p.m. and again about 7:10 p.m., he said. He also thought it came from high on the mountain, though he did not say it lasted an entire minute, Steindler said.
A third man not with the other two said that around the same time, he heard rockfall, then a scream, then the sounds of a man and woman shouting to each other, Steindler said. A few minutes later, the man said he heard rockfall again and a male and female shouting to each other, he said. He thought the noises came from the summit area of the mountain, Steindler said.
Still, that would mean Marcil and Brightwell spent hours on the summit, though no one has reported seeing them on the summit or descending the mountain, he said.
Marcil and Brightwell are the third and fourth deaths on Capitol Peak this summer. There were four deaths on Capitol between 2003 and 2016.
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