Missing hiker found dead below summit of Mount Silverthorne
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the official cause of death for hiker Ken May.
The Summit County Rescue Group recovered the body of missing hiker Ken May from a couloir below the summit of Mount Silverthorne Friday night.
May, 71, left his vehicle at about 7 a.m. on Oct. 7 near the Willowbrook trailhead west of Silverthorne, and planned to return around 6:45 p.m. after summiting Mount Silverthorne. The rescue team was notified at 9:40 p.m. that night that he hadn’t returned.
May, an experienced hiker, was equipped with a SPOT-tracking device that sent automatic GPS position updates, which showed him descending from Mount Silverthorne at around 1:20 p.m. His last GPS ping placed him on the ridgeline heading towards Salmon Lake later that day. His device then stopped sending signals.
The rescue group began searching for May on Wednesday night, sending two teams into the Willow Lakes and Salmon Lake areas. But rescue workers were unable to continue up to the ridge because of darkness and extremely technical terrain, according to the group. Additional search teams returned to the area at first light on Thursday, including one team that was inserted by Flight for Life near his last known coordinates.
The team found May’s body at about 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8, in very technical terrain below the ridge between Mount Silverthorne and East Thorne. Because of the extreme nature of the terrain, the group decided to attempt the recovery on the following day.
A total of 20 rescuers in two large teams left the Willowbrook trailhead at around 7 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 9. In addition to the Summit County Rescue Group, additional search and rescue personal also arrived from Park, Grand, Douglas and Larimer counties.
At 9 a.m., four additional Summit rescue workers were inserted on the saddle between Mount Silverthorne and East Thorne by Flight for Life. Two rescuers rappelled down about 500 feet into a couloir on the Salmon Lake side to reach May, and raised him back up to the ridge using a rope uphaul system set up by other rescues on the ridge.
Rescuers lowered May back down on the Willow Lakes side, which was a scree field — a slope covered in small loose stones — instead of a boulder field, and considered a less technical descent. The “scree evacuation” took May down 1,500 vertical feet over half a mile, and took approximately four hours.
At about 9 p.m. the rescuers were able to deliver May to Flight for Life, which landed at Willow Lakes. May was then taken to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco.
The Summit County Coroner’s Office has since ruled May’s death as accidental. The official cause of death is multiple blunt force trauma injuries, Coroner Regan Wood said in an email on Saturday, Oct. 10.
Reporter Libby Stanford contributed to this story.
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