CU skier dies hiking the Maroon Bells

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenAugust 16, 2010

Twenty-year-old Spencer J. Nelson died hiking the Maroon Bells over the weekend after an errant rock hit him in the head, reportedly causing him to fall an estimated 600 feet down a couloir.

Spencer James Nelson

Nelson hailed from Winter Park and was a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder where his coaches told The Denver Post he was a dedicated and caring member of the school's heralded ski team.

After reaching the summit Saturday, the young man was making the traverse between North Maroon Peak and South Maroon Peak along with his father and a half-dozen others when tragedy struck. He was wearing a helmet, according to officials, but a falling rock knocked him off the traverse and into the Bell Chord Couloir.

On Sunday morning, three Mountain Rescue Aspen members were flown on a helicopter from the parking area at the Maroon Bells to the couloir, at about 11,275 feet in elevation, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office reported. Two other Mountain Rescue Aspen members ascended on foot.

The recovery team reached Nelson and flew his body out of the Bells on the helicopter at about 10:40 a.m.

"This is a terrible tragedy," his ski coach Richard Rokos told, the official website for University of Colorado athletics. "For everybody involved — parents, friends, his team, coaches, anybody who had ever met him — it's a terrible waste of life, talent and ambition."

Friday on Facebook, Nelson wrote excitedly about his planned trip to the Bells. When one of his friends responded: “Dam (sic), that's a climb! 14,1456 feet!” Nelson wrote back: “Haha yes it is. Gonna be sweet. Life is good.”

The next day, as word of Nelson's tragedy circulated, his friends posted messages on his Facebook page lamenting their loss, and what Nelson meant to them.

“I will always remember what a wonderful person and incredible friend you were to me, and to so many others,” one young woman wrote. “I loved your sunny disposition, and how you always reminded us all that 'life is good.'”

comments: 1 Comment on "CU skier dies hiking the Maroon Bells"

glenwoodsprings22 – Sept. 18, 2010, at 6:59 a.m.

What a tragic loss this was. Again, my very deep and sincere thank you for your service to all search and rescue and all first responders who aided this young man and his family.

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