The Crestone Eagle, July 2006:

Experienced climber dies on Kit Carson Peak
by Diane Bairstow

Douglas Beach, an experienced climber, firefighter, and search and rescue worker, apparently lost his footing and died from a fall on the North East face of Kit Carson Peak. Rescue workers from Alamosa found his body on Wednesday, June 14, at about 1pm.

Beach left his home in Cheyenne, Wyoming on Saturday, June 10 and was to return the next day, on Sunday, June 11. His absence was noticed when he didn’t show up for a paramedic clinic he was to attend on Monday evening, and Tuesday morning he was reported overdue to Wyoming’s Custer County Search and Rescue.

Teams from Crestone, Alamosa, Gunnison, the Saguache County Sheriff’s Dept., and Beach’s friends from the Fire Department in Cheyenne carried out the search. It was “exhausting,” Windy Wadsworth from the Crestone Search and Rescue team told me. It was rough terrain and heavy winds gusting between 65 and 70 mph. They stayed on the mountain until a team with horses arrived to carry the body down. Most of the teams got down before dark.

The trail between Challenger and Kit Carson is an especially treacherous and exhausting one, Wadsworth explained to me. Hikers must first summit Challenger to get to Kit Carson, and once they have climbed Kit Carson, they then have to retake Challenger. It’s then they start making foolish mistakes. A combination of altitude, exhaustion, and sometimes inclement weather often cause climbers to feel disoriented and make poor choices. Sometimes they try to find shortcuts down or become careless from fatigue and lose their footing.

Beach, who left behind a wife and five children, was an experienced climber who had reportedly already climbed several 14,000-ft peaks in Colorado. He had also been a Navy Seal, as well as his other credentials mentioned above.

“It just shows that it can happen to anyone,” Wadsworth told me. “Most people we pull off the mountain are experienced. It’s the other ones that are very scared who are extra careful.”

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