Coroner: Pennsylvania hiker cause of death on Conundrum Trail near Aspen was altitude sickness
September 11, 2017
A 20-year-old Pennsylvania woman who was hiking on Conundrum Creek Trail last month when she fell ill and later died suffered from High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), according to an official release from the Pitkin County Coroner's Office.
Susanna (Susie) DeForest was visiting from Pennsylvania and had spent time in Golden and Dillon with friends before arriving in Aspen. The altitude in Dillon is 9,111 feet. The campsite in Pitkin County where she died was 10,367 feet. According to the coroner's office, DeForest likely started developing HAPE in the days before arriving in Aspen as it commonly develops on the second or third day at altitudes above 6,600 feet when it occurs. HACE likely developed after she traveled to the higher elevation on Conundrum Creek Trail.
The symptoms of HAPE and HACE can be insidious and mimic other illnesses. The Coroner’s Office strongly recommends anyone traveling to high altitude locations make themselves aware of the possible symptoms of all forms of altitude illness including Acute Mountain Sickness, HAPE and HACE (the latter two which may be fatal) and seek medical attention immediately even with what may seem like minor symptoms.