Rocky Mountains

Peter Jeffris - disturbing deaths in the mountains and National Parks

Peter Jeffris, body found November 20th, 2014, Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Peter Jeffris death rocky mountain national park

On November 16th, 2014 Peter Jeffris, 25, had planned a solo hike to summit the Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. He aimed to summit the mountain and return the same day.

Longs Peak is one of Colorado’s "Fourteeners" and has an altitude of 14,259 feet (4346 m). It is located in the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness,  Longs Peak is the northernmost fourteener in the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountain was named in honour of explorer Stephen Harriman Long.

Longs Peak Colorado

Peter planned to hike to Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route. This is described by the National Park service as follows:

The Keyhole Route is not a hike. It is a climb that crosses enormous sheer vertical rock faces, often with falling rocks, requiring scrambling, where an unroped fall would likely be fatal. The route has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs.

For most of the year, climbing Longs Peak is in winter conditions, which requires winter mountaineering experience and the knowledge and use of specialized equipment. Disregard for the mountain environment any time of year has meant danger, injury and even death.

The Keyhole Route can experience winter-like conditions at any time, requiring greater skill and judgment. Be prepared to turn back during sudden, drastic weather changes.

The high elevation may affect your condition and judgment. Careful descent is the best treatment.

Don't have summit fever: Enjoy the experience, but be willing to turn around at any time.

For those who are prepared, the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak, one of the most popular routes in Colorado, is an extraordinary climbing experience.

Jeffris was a University of Colorado graduate specialising in mechanical engineering and was working at Broomfield’s Altius Space Machines. He was also an Eagle Scout.

On November 17th he failed to show up at work the next day, colleagues became worried and he was reported missing to the authorities as Peter had fortunately told some of his coworkers that he was going to climb Longs Peak on Sunday. Peter's car was quickly found at the Longs Peak trailhead and searches of the area were launched. 

There was three days of intensive searching of 20 square miles around the peak in extreme weather conditions with winds gusting at well above 80 miles per hour and temperatures below freezing. But there was no luck in finding Peter. Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Teams were assisted by Larimer County Search and Rescue, Rocky Mountain Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Search Dogs of Colorado and the Colorado Search and Rescue Board. Park staff also worked with the US Air Force Rescue Coordination Centre.

Then the weather cleared up enough for helicopters to conduct a sweep and on November 20th Peter's body was found about 200 feet below an area called The Ledges. Four Search and Rescue team members were flown to the Glacier Gorge drainage and climbed approximately 1,800 vertical feet to Jeffris' body.

The Ledges Longs Peak

There were freezing temperatures and high winds in the area at the time of Peter's hike and he did not carry clothing and shelter for an overnight stay in the mountains. The Boulder County coroner later determined that he had died of hypothermia and that his death was an accident. Peter's death was the third fatality on the mountain that season.

Background the the hike

Peter had tried to get a group together to scale Longs Peak but when none of his friends could make it, he decided to climb the mountain by himself. He had solo climbed Longs several times before.

He was skilled at winter survival  but decided to pack light in the hopes of being able to move quickly and make the summit and back in less than one day which given the weather conditions and early darkness would be a major challenge. "He left a lot of gear behind at home," Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said at the time. "When people move light, they go fast, but when something terrible happens, like they get lost or injured, that certainly can have a significant impact on how you might be able to cope with the elements and spend the night out. He was not prepared for that -- no tent, no heavy jacket." 

The camera found on the body had a selfie video he took from the summit around 4.30pm the day he died. Normally for Longs Peak, hikers will camp out and start hiking around 5am so they can summit by noon and be back off the mountain by dark. Peter reached the summit only shortly before sunset. 

On the way back down, about a 1/4 mile from the “Keyhole” Peter for some reason left the marked trail and was climbing above the normal trail across the “Narrows” (a narrow ledge leading about half a mile above sheer drop-offs), when he fell over 600 feet to his death.

Peter's mother, Jeanne Jeffris, said he had planned the climb of Longs Peak carefully and researched the route. She said he'd done this climb several times in winter and had recently purchased new gear for the hike. She said she spoke to him, when he said he'd run with his boss but was "saving his legs for the climb on Sunday." She also said he was in great shape and was a well-prepared climber

Jeffris' former scoutmaster, Tim Le Brun, says Jeffris was in great shape and prepared for such a climb."Through scouting we had been on rock-climbing adventures, on mountaineering adventures in New Mexico, we had been on survival hikes where you prepare for things like this,"

Le Brun says he's not sure what may have led to Jeffris' death,"He was a cautious person, but not at the expense of the adventure".

What happened to Peter Jeffris on Longs Peak?

It seems that Peter Jeffris was well prepared for a fast hike to the summit of Longs Peak but moving down the 14,259 feet peak at 4.30pm in darkness without support was pretty foolhardy, even for an experienced winter climber. When the weather turned bad with gales and low temperatures lacking equipment for an overnight stay he was probably doomed. Why he left the Keyhole and went off trail is a mystery but perhaps by then hypothermia or altitude sickness or even panic may have caused Peter to make rash decisions as he moved down the mountain. Perhaps something else caused Peter to tackle the area climbing above the normal trail across the “Narrows”?

Solo mountain hiking in winter is not a hobby to be recommended without adequate equipment and good weather. Peter had all the right skills, he was a cautious person, had the hike planned but even then he very sadly succumbed to the Rocky Mountains.



Keith Reinhard - Strange disappearances from US mountains

Keith Reinhard, Disappeared August 7, 1988, Silver Plume, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

Keith Reinhard Rocky mountains disappearance

In 1988, 50 year old, journalist Keith Reinhard went off to seek a new life in a remote part of Colorado called Silver Plume, became obsessed with the strange disappearance of the previous owner of the bookshop he was renting and started writing a book about it and then he himself vanished without a trace within weeks. 

Silver Plume, a town with less than 200 residents, is located close to Denver in Colorado and situated along Clear Creek in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Founded in 1864, it was originally meant to be a gold camp, but instead, silver ore was found. Today Silver Plume is referred to as a “semi-ghost town,” or a “living ghost town.”

Keith was a sports writer for the Chicago Daily Herald and hated big city life suffering a mid-life crisis and desperately trying to find a way out. He was married to Carolyn with a daughter, but he was keen to try and start a new life away in the backcountry. A friend of Keith's, Ted Parker, lived in Silver Plume and he had often heard from him of the different sort of life there away from everything and everybody. Reinhard made up his mind to take a 90-day leave of absence from work and try out living there for a while on his own without his wife Carolyn, explaining to her that he wanted to write a book in peace and quiet and rediscover himself. His plan would be that, eventually, Carolyn would join him and she reluctantly agreed with his plan.

Keith relocated to Silver Plume in the summer of 1988  and rented a simple storefront from his friend Parker on the town’s main street for his antique business and began writing his book. Within a short time he began to experience "writer's block" and to try and stir his creative juices he began taking regular hikes out in the rugged Rocky Mountains.

Silver plume, rocky mountains

Then Reinhard discovered around this time that the storefront’s previous owner, Tom Young, who had run a bookstore had mysteriously vanished with his dog on September 7, 1987. Young had suddenly told his friends and family that he was travelling to Europe for a vacation and disappeared. He was last seen walking off with his dog Gus, with which he was said to be inseparable, and no one had seen him since. No trace of the missing man or his dog had ever been found despite intensive searches.

Thomas J Young Silver Plume

Keith was intrigued and asked Parker and other locals about the case and then decided to abandon the subject of his original novel and start writing a fiction novel using Young as its basis.The book featured a character that was a composite of Young and Keith.

On July 31, 1988, some local hunters found Young's skeleton, propped up against a tree out in the wilderness about an hour from Silver Plume and with a bullet hole in the head with a pistol, a backpack, and the dog Gus who was also shot. Young had purchased the gun just 4 days before his disappearance and local police believed it had to be a suicide. Locals were sceptical though as they said that he would never hurt Gus and many suspected foul play, 

Around a week later, on August 7, 1988, Keith closed up his shop and told friends that he had decided to go hiking up the nearby Pendleton Mountain. What made this strange it that it was 4pm and the round trip to the mountain was around 6 hours, a mountain he had tried to climb before but was thwarted by its steep and rugged terrain. He also had no proper hiking gear with him and didn't appropriate clothing for the cold temperatures up on the mountain. Ted Parker, thought he was just messing around when he came to his café to tell him of his plans that he would be back in town by 10pm and he later said "He was in the café and told me he was going to make it to the top of the mountain. If I don’t come back, call on the rescue and he said that in jest, I felt. I have this picture of him pointing to the mountain and saying goodbye. That was the last time I saw him."

At 4.30pm Keith was seen walking off towards the mountain without a coat or even a backpack and after that,  he vanished. The next day, a huge search and rescue operation was called out when he failed to return to Silver Plume, involving planes, helicopters and sniffer dogs. The search went on for a week but nothing was found. The head of the rescue team, Charley Shimanski, said at the time, "The Reinhard search was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. This haystack is 3,000 vertical feet of 60 degree slope. This was about as difficult a search terrain as we cover. We were at a real disadvantage because Keith went into the mountains wearing no more than blue jeans and a flannel shirt and tennis shoes. He had no backpack. He had no equipment. A typical subject of a search will leave lots of clues for us to trace. Keith didn’t leave many clues. He didn’t have many with him to leave behind."

The search was called off on August 12 when a Cessna aircraft carrying two rescuers crashed, killing one of them and seriously injuring the other. The only clue left behind was a piece in his book found by friends on his computer, concerning the main character Guy Gypsum, which said "Guy Gypsum changed into some hiking boots and donned a heavy flannel shirt. He understood it all now, and his motivation. Guy closed the door, then walked off towards the lush, shadowless, Colorado forests above."

In the years since Keith Reinhard’s mysterious disappearance there have been many theories proposed as to what happened to him. One is that he had gone off to the mountain with suicide in mind like Tom Young. But he had not mentioned any suicidal thoughts to friends or his wife. Another theory was that Reinhard was trying to emulate the adventurous character of his novel, and had gone off to get a feel for it, but with every intention of coming back to write more but had gotten lost or injured in the mountains. Perhaps the move to Silver Plume was not enough and he wanted to escape and start a completely new life away from family and friends, but this seems unlikely as he was close to his wife and daughter Tiffany. 

He also might have just wanted to disappear for a short while to see how everyone reacted, either as a joke or for research for his book, and then either met with some unexpected accident. But others believe that just like with Tom Young, foul play might have been involved. One man disappears without a trace, his body is found shot a year later, and then another man who happens to rent the same storefront and is writing a novel about the previous owner also vanishes.

What happened to Keith Reinhard? Creative obsession whilst writing a book, suicide, murder or the Rocky Mountains terrain and weather or living a new life somewhere else in the United States? A very mysterious disappearance.