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Helicopters, ground searchers hunt for missing climber who reached 14,171-foot summit in Sangre de Cristo mountains

Searchers hiked up trails and hovered in helicopters Monday trying to find a missing climber – a 41-year-old man who reached the summit of Kit Carson Peak Saturday afternoon — high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado.

Climber Luis Corkern hadn’t been seen since Saturday when he apparently reached the summit of Kit Carson peak (elevation 14,171) around 4 p.m., according to a Saguache County Sheriff bulletin Monday morning.

A Saguache County team began searching Monday, drawing support from Custer County Search and Rescue on the east side of the mountains and other agencies.

Sheriff department dispatchers gathered details over the weekend from other mountain climbers who recalled passing Corkern along a trail: that he apparently planned to descend via the Challenger Point and a standard route but did not make it back to his vehicle parked at a trailhead above the town of Crestone.

Corkern is about 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighing around 180 pounds, and was wearing a white climbing helmet with a raccoon tail tied to it, authorities said. His backpack was orange and maroon and he might be wearing a grey or black t-shirt or raincoat.

The authorities asked that anybody with information please contact the Saguache County Sheriff at 719-655-2544.

Helicopters were expected to fly over the mountains on Monday.

Kit Carson peak rises to 14,171 feet about 5.2 miles east of Crestone in the San Luis Valley.  A semi-permanent ice patch complicates climbing on the rugged west face of the peak. During summers, thunderstorms and lightning often create problems for climbers. Fatalities also occur when climbers descend the peak in a couloir near Challenger Point that can look like a shorter route but leads to ice fields and loose rock above sheer cliffs – requiring highly technical maneuvers. Searchers in the past have recovered bodies at the base of that couloir.

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