Lenexa man, 18, killed in apparent fall off Longs Peak in Colorado

07/28/2014 5:05 PM

07/28/2014 11:43 PM

A Johnson County man died Friday while climbing near one of Colorado’s most popular peaks, the National Park Service announced Monday.

Nicholas L. Hellbusch, 18, of Lenexa, was killed Friday morning when he apparently fell while climbing above the standard route to the summit of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Evidence at the scene suggested that Hellbusch struck his head while falling. He landed below the Ledges, which is part of the eight-mile Keyhole route to the 14,259-foot summit.

Hellbusch’s family declined Monday to talk about the accident.

According to social media, Hellbusch had been a student at Shawnee Mission South High School. According to the school district, in 2013 Hellbusch won first place at the invitational Introduction to Engineering Design Challenge contest at Black & Veatch. He won for a reverse engineering project that included rebuilding and modifying a home-repair tool.

A photograph on Twitter showed Hellbusch and another student making modifications to their “hiker’s water collection system.”

A page for Hellbusch on YouCaring.com on Monday had raised nearly $2,500 toward a memorial.

“I am so sorry that the world is without such a genuine, funny, and kind person,” one person posted on the site.

“So many years of memories with a sweet, handsome, and superbly funny young man,” wrote another.

A climber notified park rangers about 7 a.m., saying that he and his group had seen the body. Rangers reached the area at 10:15 a.m. and confirmed that Hellbusch was dead.

Later that morning, a U.S. Forest Service helicopter recovered Hellbusch’s body, which was transferred to the Boulder County Coroner’s Office.

Weather on the mountain that morning was clear and warm. Climbers ascending the mountain reported no ice on the trail below the area from which Hellbusch fell.

The park service noted that the incident was under investigation, though no foul play was suspected.

Longs Peak is the 15th highest mountain in Colorado, according to the popular website 14ers.com, which ranks it as a “difficult” climb.

The mountain is the centerpiece of Rocky Mountain National Park, attracts thousands of visitors a year and is one of the most popular climbing routes in Colorado, according to a park service guide.

In 2002, more than 9,500 people reached the Longs Peak summit, with thousands more turning back before beginning the most difficult portion of the climb, according to the park service.

More than 60 people have died on or near Longs Peak since 1884, most from unroped falls, according to an 2011 article in Trail & Timberline, the journal of the Colorado Mountain Club.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com. To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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