Solo rock climber dies in climbing accident near Officers Gulch in Summit County

A 29-year-old man is dead following a rock climbing accident over the weekend near Officers Gulch in Summit County in an area known locally as Officers Wall.

The Summit County Rescue Group recovered his body by noon Sunday, Sept. 3, after a friend of the climber notified authorities around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, that he hadn’t returned as planned.

The climber was climbing solo but had called his friend around 5 p.m. on Saturday to say he was on a rock but headed down shortly. The climber said he would 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. He found his car parked there and decided to call 911.

Eight members of Summit County Rescue Group began searching around 11:30 p.m. along the recreation pathway 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.”

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

Rescuers found the climber’s body at the base of a cliff at Officers Wall. Rescuers were able to evacuate the climber’s body 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 a news release Sunday. “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 in a statement.

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