Life’s little games


It is funny how things work in life. If you have read the Pikes Peak news section you will note that I have posted several items referencing a truck at the bottom of the Bottomless Pit on the North face of Pikes Peak. I have always had an odd preoccupation with that truck and I assure you it was not just morbid curiosity! Soon after it happened on October 14, 1992, there were several people who honestly thought it might have been me that took the 2,100' plunge. Before the body was found the truck was traced to a Joseph Scott Carpenter who was missing from Mississippi which, coincidently, is where I lived while attending college. Add to this mix the fact that I spend so much time on Pikes Peak and cook it a little. Then stir in the fact that many people call me Scott confusing me with Scott Elliott another multi-time winner of Pikes Peak. Finally, sprinkle on the fact that I had just lost the 1992 Pikes Peak Marathon. Bring all this to a boil and you come up with a recipe that had people figuring this could be me and would be just the way I would go.

Since that week in October, 1992, I have always planned to find the truck but I could not honestly say why. Because of an upcoming race with terrain similar to that of the North face of Pikes Peak I finally had my excuse to follow the voice deep inside my head. Now that I have silenced that voice I still do not have all the answers. However, a few synapses at the base of my being are a little more at ease. It may sound strange, but by seeing that truck I guess I can be positive that it was not me.

Another chapter unfolded on October 17, 1997 — five years to the day from when the body of Carpenter was recovered from the Bottomless Pit — when I got an e-mail from Chuck Wilt. Chuck has a story to tell and someday he hopes to be able to tell it. In the meantime Chuck sent these seven articles telling the story of how a truck ended up in the middle of my training run. I hope that someday I receive another e-mail with another side of the story. I think Chuck, as well as another Barr Camp caretaker, were made out to be bad guys when in fact they were just trying to help and possibly keep someone else from getting hurt or killed.

The truck in the Bottomless Pit
This is the driver’s side of the truck which is upside down.
The steering wheel can be seen in between the rear wheel and the front rim just above and to the
left of the road sign. Also note the collapsed size of the truck compared to the size of the road sign.

10/15/92 Pickup driven off peak top
10/16/92 Pickup driven off peak traced to missing man
10/17/92 Man thought to have driven off peak found dead
10/18/92 Caretakers move body to Barr Camp
10/19/92 Barr Camp caretaker defends removal of body
10/20/92 Coroner due to ID peak victim
10/22/92 Manís family baffled by peak plunge

Pickup driven off peak top

By Robin Rivers/Gazette Telegraph 10/15/92

A pickup truck was intentionally driven off the summit of Pikes Peak early Wednesday afternoon and plunged 2,100 feet down the mountainside.

No victims were found, although a witness said there appeared to be some one in the vehicle.

Another person might have videotaped the incident and Colorado Springs police are seeking that person or anyone who might have witnessed the incident.

Police say the truck plunged into an area called “The Bottomless Pit” and triggered a small avalanche.

It’s possible that any occupants of the truck may be buried in the avalanche debris, police officer Tom Finn said the search for any victim or victims was called off at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday because of darkness and may resume today, depending on the weather.

The area where the truck was found is laden with snow and large boulders. Police said the incident was suspicious but refused to release more details.

“It was intentional that the vehicle went over the side,” said Sgt. Bill Heffner.

A witness told police the truck suddenly sped off the north side of the summit parking lot about 12:30pm. The same witness said another person ran to the edge of the mountain and appeared to be videotaping the truck. That person then left the area.

El Paso County Search and Rescue team members began combing the mountainside about 12:46 p.m. and found a bloody shirt about 1,000 feet below the summit. Parts from the truck were strewn down the mountainside.

Flight for Life helicopter flew over the area several times but could not find the pickup.

The truck eventually was found about 6:16 p.m. in a steep ravine and rescuers used ropes to reach it.

Weather conditions on the mountain will be chilly today, the National Weather Service said. A cold front is moving through Colorado and temperatures are expected to be in the 30s by early afternoon in Colorado Springs. Gusty northerly winds also are expected.

Pickup driven off peak traced to missing man

By Robin Rivers/Gazette Telegraph 10/16/92

The mystery surrounding a pickup that plummeted 2,100 feet from the summit of Pikes Peak deepened Thursday when police traced its ownership to a missing Mississippi man.

Joseph Scott Carpenter’s wallet and identification were found in wreckage in a snowy, boulder-laden area called “The Bottomless Pit” on the peak’s north face. There was no sign of Carpenter, a 20-year-old college student who was reported missing from Lucedale, Miss., a week ago when he didn’t return from work.

Colorado Springs police think someone was in the truck when it sped off the north side of the summit parking lot about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Two or three people who witnessed the incident said the truck’s engine was revving before it started rolling.

Police say the truck was intentionally driven off the mountain.

The pickup plummeted 400 feet before it hit the mountainside, and any passenger might have been thrown out.

“There is a good chance he could be quite a ways away from the vehicle,” said Lt. Rich Resling.

A search of the mountain side so far has yielded a bloody shirt, other clothing and truck parts. High winds and other weather problems prevented rescuers from working Thursday; they plan to continue today if conditions improve.

Police are looking for one person believed to have videotaped the incident.

In Mississippi, Carpenter’s co-workers are puzzled about his disappearance. He is an art major at Jackson County Community College and works part time at a drug store. The store’s manager, Charles Penn, said Carpenter generally has been a good employee.

His father said he had friends in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, which could explain why Carpenter was in Colorado Springs. The family offered no details on why he might have left Mississippi without telling anyone.

Man thought to have driven off peak found dead

By Robin Rivers/Gazette Telegraph 10/17/92

The frozen body of a man believed to have driven a pickup off the top of Pikes Peak was found Friday morning 2,100 feet below the summit in a snowy, rock-strewn area called the Bottomless Pit.

Rescuers had expected to bring the body down by early today, but wind, snow and snowslides could make the recovery difficult.

The victim, who has not been identified, was found by two caretakers from Barr Camp who had joined the two-day search. Barr Camp is about six miles from the summit. Although the body was found about 30 feet from the truck, officials could not say why it was not seen when the pickup was discovered Wednesday. Searchers spent about 5½ hours Wednesday and Thursday looking for the victim.

The truck is registered to Joseph Scott Carpenter, 20, of Lucedale, Miss. The 20-year-old art major at Jackson County Community College has been missing from his home since he failed to return from work Oct. 9. If the victim is identified as Carpenter and the autopsy doesn’t reveal anything unusual, the death most likely will be ruled a suicide, police said. If the victim is not Carpenter, the investigation will continue.

The autopsy probably will be done Monday.

Because of acceleration marks, police are convinced the truck was intentionally driven over the edge.

Witnesses said the parked truck suddenly sped toward the northern edge and plunged off the mountain, flying 400 feet before it hit the side.

Police are seeking a witness whom others said videotaped the truck as it went over the edge.

Three other people have died in traffic accidents on Pikes Peak since 1979.

Caretakers move body to Barr Camp

By Louis Agullar/Gazette Telegraph 10/18/92

The county’s search and rescue team was scrambling late Saturday to get a body off Pikes Peak after it had been wrongly moved about six miles down froth the summit.

The body is believed to be that of a man who committed suicide by driving a pickup off the top of the 14,110 feet peak Wednesday afternoon. The truck and body fell 2,100 feet into a snowy, rocky area called the Bottomless Pit.

Two caretakers from Barr Camp Found the body Friday about 30 feet from the truck. On Saturday, they decided to bring it down the mountain to their camp, which is inaccessible by vehicle.

Late that night, search and rescue members brought the body down to a road, where it was to be transported to the coroner’s office.

Deputized members of the search team, who often gather evidence to aid investigations, were angered that the body had been moved.

“It appears to have been moved with well-intentions, but it was wrong,” said Lt. Rich Hesling, a Colorado Springs police spokesman.

The truck is registered to Joseph Scott Carpenter, 20, of Lucedale, Miss., who has been missing from his home since Oct. 9. Police are seeking a witness whom others said videotaped the truck as it sped off the edge of the summit.

Barr Camp caretaker defends removal of body

By Louis Agullar /Gazette Telegraph 10/19/92

Frustrated with what they called bureaucratic slowness, two men dug a dead body out of ice near the summit of Pikes Peak and carried it six miles down the mountain Saturday.

They thought they were doing everybody a favor. But officials aren’t grateful.

The body is believed to be that of a man who apparently drove his pickup off the summit Wednesday. The truck plunged more than 2,000 feet into the Bottomless Pit, a steep and icy area strewn with large boulders known to cause avalanches.

“We just got tired of the bureaucratic bull... There was a dead body laying up there for almost half a week and nothing was being done,” said Leif Magnusson, 22, a caretaker at Barr Camp, a tiny, isolated camp seven miles up the 12-mile Barr Trail to the summit. “We were the ones closest to it. So we got it. We knew what we were doing.”

But officials from the EL Paso County Coroner’s Office and Colorado Springs police said Sunday they were worried that removing the body and tampering with the scene might hinder their ability to determine the cause of death. And El Paso County Search and Rescue president Thomas Frazer charged Sunday that the men put searchers in danger by forcing them to go up the mountain at night.

El Paso County Search and Rescue members found the wreckage of the truck late Wednesday afternoon but could not locate the body because it was dark, Frazer said. They decided to wait until Sunday to find and remove the body after determining that no one could have survived the truck’s plunge down the mountain. Bad weather and the all-volunteer makeup of the search team were factors in the decision.

But instead, Magnusson and another caretaker, Chuck Wilt, found the body Friday, 30 feet from the pickup and almost completely covered ice. He said they looked for it after a search and rescue worker on the summit called them for help; he couldn’t recall the searcher’s name.

That afternoon; Magnusson called search and rescue officials from the summit to tell them the body had been found. He said he took photographs of the scene and determined how far the truck and body fell.

Magnusson said he is a certified emergency medical technician and has been mountaineering since he was 6.

Search and rescue teams rushed up the peak Friday afternoon, Frazer said, because he thought one of the Barr Camp caretakers had planned to stay at the scene until they arrived. That turned out not to be true.

After Magnusson discovered that the search and rescue team hadn’t removed the body Friday and wasn’t planning to do so until Sunday, he and Wilt decided to do it themselves. They dug the body out of a foot of ice and carried it on their back in a large pack for two miles before reaching a marked trail, where two friends placed it on a gurney and helped take it down another three miles to Barr Camp, Magnusson said.

Search and rescue members retrieved the body from the camp, hiking down another 1-1/2 miles to an unpaved road. It reached the coroner’s office late Saturday night.

“I just think they were going about it all wrong,” Magnusson said. “There were too many people going into an area where there was a strong possibility of rock fall. And just waiting around, we were worried that this guy could be even more buried by the time they were going to try and get him.”

Replied Frazer: “They just don’t understand all the things we have to consider. The people at Barr Camp have always had a good relationship with us; we’d like to continue that. But I do hope they understand how this was very wrong.”

An autopsy is scheduled for this morning in Colorado Springs. The truck is registered to Joseph Scott Carpenter, 20, of Lucedale, Miss., who has been missing since Oct. 9.

Coroner due to ID peak victim

Gazette Telegraph 10/20/92

Massive injuries caused the death of a man believed to have driven a pickup off the top of Pikes Peak on Wednesday, coroner’s officials said Monday.

The coroner has yet to release the man’s name. His identity is expected to be made public today or Wednesday.

The body was recovered from the rock-strewn, icy mountainside Saturday. It was found about 30 feet from the truck, which plunged 2,100 feet into an area called the Bottomless Pit.

Because of acceleration marks, police are convinced the truck was intentionally driven over the edge. The truck is registered to Joseph Scott Carpenter, 20, of Lucedale, Miss. He has been missing from his home since Oct. 9.

Man’s family baffled by peak plunge

Young artist called talented, energetic

By D’Arcy Fallen and Robin Rivers/Gazette Telegraph 10/22/92

Life was sweet and full of promise for, the 20-year-old art student. Yet on Oct. 14 Joseph “Scotty” Carpenter found himself at 14,110 feet atop Pikes Peak on a crisp fall day, 1,300 miles from his Mississippi home — and alone.

From the summit, the devout Mormon could see forever.

The pickup truck, which he’d bought only two weeks before, revved so hard it left skid marks. Then it flew off the mountain and plunged 2,100 feet into the rocks below.

What was he thinking?

On Wednesday, authorities declared Carpenter’s death one week ago a suicide, saying there was no sign of foul play nor of drugs or alcohol in his body.

But that’s incomprehensible to friends and family back in rural Lucedale, population 2,600. They knew Carpenter as a talented, disciplined art student who was moody like many young people but resilient.

On Oct. 9, John Carpenter filed a missing person’s report on his son with Mississippi authorities, and within three days there was a nationwide alert out for the man. (Although Denver police apparently didn’t know that. They stopped Scotty Carpenter for speeding the day before he died.)

Sherry Carpenter said she always knew where her younger brother was. He had come to Colorado to check out the Colorado Institute of Art in Denver, where he was thinking of studying — although college officials say they never heard of him.

Sherry Carpenter said her brother didn’t commit suicide but had an epileptic seizure atop Pikes Peak — although the El Paso County coroner said an autopsy showed no evidence of that.

“He wasn’t depressed,” Sherry Carpenter insisted. “We don’t believe it was intentional like everybody says.”

Besides, her brother was just beginning to make strides with his art and was even considering a job offer with Walt Disney Co. in California. Others who knew Scotty Carpenter agreed that he was talented, energetic and excited about the future.

He was one of six children, the son of a construction-worker father and a mother who worked at a Wal-Mart. By some accounts, the family wasn’t close.

He graduated from George County High School in 1990 near the top of his class. He was popular and bright, a snappy dresser who involved himself in extracurricular activities. He was attending Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he was yearbook editor.

Carpenter’s college counselor, Terry Fountain, described him as responsible, outgoing, efficient and organized. “He had lots on the ball. He seemed to have some goals, a purpose and a plan and was exceptionally talented.”

Stephanie Roberts, Carpenter’s high school English teacher, has spent the past week grieving over her former student. She remembers him as a sensitive person and an “emotional” writer who was taken with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

“I’ve turned this over in my mind a thousand times,” said Roberts. “Was there some kind of life decision that he had come to? If so, it bothers me that it was so disturbing to him.”

“I could picture Scotty getting away, just getting away, sorting it out, but not ending it all. Why this far, why this place, I don’t know. I cannot picture him believing all hope is lost.”

A friend from high school, Kelly Johnson, said Carpenter could be moody and intense. Not just about anything, but about his art.

“When he believed in something, whether it was good or bad, he went all the way,” Johnson said.

But suicidal? No.

“There are so many ways to commit suicide here; why would he drive all the way to Colorado?” she said. “Nobody knows what happened.”

Yet this much is known:

Levi Bearb, a Louisiana truck driver visiting Pikes Peak on the same day Scotty Carpenter was, remembers seeing a silver pickup truck near the edge.

Then he heard the engine roar. Then the truck took off.

“My God, the S.O.B. is going to go over,” Bearb shouted.

He didn’t know who was at the wheel, or what that person was thinking.

All Bearb knows is that whoever it was never applied the brakes.

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