Mount Harvard

Gene George - Strange deaths on U.S. mountains

Gene George, disappeared September 19th 2013, body found March 24th 2014, North Cottonwood Creek Trail, Mount Harvard, Colorado

gene george disappearance mount harvard

Gene George, 64, was last seen on Wednesday, September 18, 2013. He was a partner with Ray Robinson lawyers located in Cleveland. He had spoken to a friend in Cleveland from a Buena Vista, Coloarado hotel room saying he planned to hike the Mount Harvard area on Thursday or Friday. He was an experienced hiker but not known to do overnight stays in the wilderness.

Mount Harvard is the third highest summit of the Rocky Mountains. The prominent 14,421-foot (4395.6 m) fourteener is the highest summit of the Collegiate Peaks and the fourth highest summit in the contiguous United States and is located in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness of San Isabel National Forest, 11.7 miles from the Town of Buena Vista in Chaffee County, Colorado. The mountain was named in honour of Harvard University.

Mount Harvard Colorado

A concerned hotel employee notified Buena Vista police on Sunday when Gene failed to check out of his hotel room. A search began in the area that afternoon after authorities discovered George’s vehicle parked and locked at the North Cottonwood Creek trailhead.

His movements after that are not certain, although other hikers reported seeing a man fitting Gene's description who reached the summit of Mount Harvard on September 21st.

The Chaffee County Sheriff requested help from search teams in Summit, Eagle, Gunnison, Pitkin and Teller counties. Forty hikers, four search dogs and two horseback teams searched the area, together with two helicopters. But after four days the search was called off with no clues found. 

After the search for his body was called off, Gene's sister, Linda Petrigac, of Willoughby, donated $5,000 to the Chaffee County Sheriff's Department, saying at the time she wanted to thank them for all the hard work and dedication they put into finding him.

Then there was  a breakthrough over six months later. On Sunday 23rd March 2014, whilst hiking, Karl Maes, 20, of Colorado Springs discovered a wallet and clothing in the underbrush and rugged terrain a quarter-mile off the trail to Mount Harvard and Mount Columbia. The hiker turned the wallet over to the sheriff's department and on Monday March 24th search volunteers were gathered to scour the area. Accompanied by Maes, search volunteers began searching at 8 a.m. Monday and discovered the remains about 3 hours later at around 11 am. The site was approximately 2½ miles from the North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead, where George’s car was found parked in September.

North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead, mount harvard map

Chaffee County Coroner Randy Amettis, said they had a sample of the missing hiker's DNA and are waiting on the results of DNA tests before they make a positive identification. Authorities did not know the cause of death, but they did not suspect foul play.

Another strange death in the wilderness.  Why were Gene's wallet and clothing found in the undergrowth off trail. Had he gone to relieve himself and been attacked by animals or had a heart attack? The authorities dismiss foul play but who knows.