Custer County Search and Rescue
Officials in Custer and Saguache counties have suspended their search for a missing hiker in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe, as of 15:00 hours, Sunday, September 29th 2013.
The search began on September 22nd, when Mark Stice of Arvada was reported overdue by his wife, after failing to return from a camping and hiking trip that began September 17th. He was due home not later than September 21st.
Stice was known to have hiked thirteen of Colorado’s 54 fourteen thousand foot peaks in the past 1 ½ years. He had previously hiked Humboldt Peak in May, and Long’s Peak in early September.
The search lasted eight days, with objective hazards including difficult terrain, significant snowfall, ice, encrusted rock; and falling rock and ice during the daily freeze thaw cycle.
Stice’s vehicle was found parked at the South Colony trailhead on September 22nd; his campsite was not located until the 24th. He did not sign any trail or summit registers and did not have a cell phone or emergency locator beacon. It is also believed that he would not have been adequately prepared for the rapidly changing weather conditions.
While Stice had summited Humboldt Peak earlier in the season, he was not known to have any local knowledge of the technical challenges that he might encounter on the more difficult peaks in the area. He was also reported to frequently descend off-route.
Stice left no itinerary with family, friends or co-workers and few other clues. Volunteer Search and Rescue Teams from Saguache, Custer, Fremont, Douglas, Vail Mountain Rescue, and Western State participated in the search. The Colorado Search and Rescue Board assisted in providing resources to the mission, including both a Lakota and a Blackhawk helicopter from the High–Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training, (HAATS), division from Gypsum Colorado. Over 800 man hours were expended in the eight day search.