Missing climber’s body found, lifted from base of couloir in Sangre de Cristo mountains

A helicopter rescue crew on Tuesday found and removed the body of a solo 41-year-old climber killed after falling from a ridge down a gulley high in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Mountain climber Luis Corkern, reported missing after reaching the summit of Kit Carson Peak around 4 p.m. Saturday, “apparently fell from the ridge down the Kirk Couloir, which lies between Kit Carson Peak and Challenger point,” according to a Saguache County Sheriff’s Department bulletin Tuesday night.

A Custer County Search and Rescue team flying in a state firefighting helicopter hovered over the area and spotted Corkern’s body near where he fell, the bulletin said. Team members climbed to the body. “Corkern’s remains were lifted from the mountain,” the bulletin said.

It was the second day of a search re-launched Tuesday morning after too much wind and lightning on Monday forced crews to cut short their initial search efforts.

Saguache and Custer county authorities declined to provide more information.

A multi-agency search, using the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control helicopter, included dropping technical climbers into the area atop the Sangre de Cristo mountains, located in southern Colorado.

Over the weekend, authorities had learned from other climbers who recalled passing Corkern along a trail, that he likely planned to descend near the Challenger point and a standard route. Corkern didn’t make it back to his vehicle, parked at a trailhead above the town of Crestone in the San Luis Valley.

The authorities conveyed condolences to his friends and family.

Kit Carson Peak towers over the valley, about 5.2 miles east of Crestone.

An ice patch complicates climbing on the west face of the peak. During summers, thunderstorms and lightning often create problems. Fatalities also occur when climbers descend the peak near the couloir and the Challenger point, which can look like a shorter route down but leads to ice fields and loose rock above sheer cliffs. Searchers in the past have recovered other bodies at the base of the couloir.

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