Solo climber who died at Officers Gulch in Summit County identified

The 29-year-old Kansas man had been atop a rock in the popular rock climbing area when he told a friend that he would be home later that evening

Rescuers work beneath Officers Wall, a climbing area near Officers Gulch between Frisco and Copper Mountain, on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. The crews were out there Sunday searching for a missing person, who was ultimately found deceased following a climbing accident.
Summit County Rescue Group/Courtesy photo

The Summit County Coroner’s Office has identified the man who died in a rock climbing accident at Officers Gulch earlier this month.

Andrew Munds, 29, of Wichita, Kansas, died of multiple blunt force injuries between 5-6 p.m., on Sept. 2, Coroner Amber Flenniken said. The manner of death was determined to be an accident, Flenniken said.

The Summit County Rescue Group recovered Munds’ body before noon Sunday, Sept. 3, after a friend of the climber notified authorities around 10:30 p.m. the previous day that Munds hadn’t returned as planned.

Munds was climbing solo. He called his friend around 5 p.m. on Saturday to say he was on a rock but headed down shortly, the rescue group said in a news release before the climber was identified.

Munds said he’d be home around 6:30 p.m., so the friend drove to Officers Gulch to check on him since he hadn’t returned as scheduled, the release states. When he found Munds’ car there, he decided to call 911.

Eight members of the Summit County Rescue Group began searching around 11:30 p.m. along the recpath between Officers Gulch and Frisco and on a climbers’ trail known locally as Halfway Rock. But the crew called off the search at 2 a.m. to ensure the rescuers stayed safe “and because darkness and traffic noise from I-70 made the possibility of seeing or hearing the missing party unlikely,” according to the release.

The search resumed 6 a.m. Sunday. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office assisted with a drone, and Munds’ family supplied searchers with his last known location from an app that shares locations, according to the rescue group. The family also sent a video the climber had taken, which “greatly aided the search,” the release states.

Rescuers found the climber’s body at the base of a cliff at Officers Wall and were able to evacuate it using a rigging system.

Summit County Rescue Group and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office “extend their deepest condolences to all the loved ones of the deceased,” the groups wrote in the news release. “We would also like to note that the deceased and his family did several things right that helped us find him and bring him back to his family in a reasonably short period of time.”

By letting his friend know an expected return time, the climber ensured that a search began quickly and that searchers knew an approximate area to search. The video sent to family and the shared location allowed searchers to pinpoint his location, which helped with the search.

“These are practices other backcountry recreationists can learn from, and although this incident ended tragically, we also know that a search which continues for a long time or is unresolved altogether is an even more difficult situation for friends and family,” Summit County Rescue Group wrote.

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