Skeletal remains found in Rocky Mountain National Park believed to be those of hiker missing since 1983

Ground search operations in 1983 for Rudi Moder. Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colorado, Nov. 4, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Skeletal remains found on the west side of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park are believed to be those of Rudi Moder, a 27-year-old man from Germany, who disappeared in the park 38 years ago.

“On Feb. 13, 1983, Rudi Moder departed the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead on Colorado Highway 17 near Cameron Pass for a two-to-three-night ski mountaineering trip over Thunder Pass and into Rocky Mountain National Park,” according to a press release from the National Park Service.

Moder, who lived in Fort Collins, was described as an experienced winter mountaineer.

On Feb. 19, Moder was reported overdue by his roommate, and search teams were in the field early on Feb. 20, 1983. Over a foot of snow fell in the Never Summer Mountains on Feb. 19, hampering search efforts in finding tracks and other possible clues.

A food cache belonging to Moder was found at the mouth of Box Canyon, in the northwest corner of the park. A snow cave, with Moder’s sleeping bag and other gear and items, was found near the food cache. These were the only major discoveries during the four-day extensive search.

“Because Rudi’s point last seen was outside of Rocky Mountain National Park at the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead, the extensive search efforts were coordinated with Larimer County Search and Rescue and Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Teams,” the NPS said. “Search efforts occurred mainly in the Box Canyon and Skeleton Gulch areas, including Mount Richthofen. This included ground searchers on skis and snowshoes, as well as aerial search operations. Searchers, including an avalanche search dog and handler, also focused efforts in avalanche terrain.”

The extensive search efforts continued for four days and ended on Feb. 23; there were numerous search efforts by ground and air that occurred later that spring and summer.

“In mid-August of 2020, skeletal remains were discovered by a hiker in the Skeleton Gulch area, near avalanche debris,” the NPS press release said. The area in which the remains were found were part of the initial search area from 1983.

After the 2020 discovery, rangers conducted a new investigation, which had to be put on hold due to wildfires, which were followed by heavy winter snowfall.

This summer, park rangers returned to the scene and found skis, poles and boots, along with remains of personal items believed to belong to Moder. The FBI Evidence Response Team assisted park rangers with the recovery.

While the Grand County Coroner’s attempts to confirm identification through dental records were inconclusive, investigators are all but certain the remains and personal items belong to Moder.

NPS and law enforcement officials have worked extensively with the German government for repatriation, family notification and further analysis of dental records.

The NPS press release said that in the decades following Moder’s disappearance search efforts were conducted periodically by Rocky Mountain National Park staff and Larimer County Search and Rescue Teams.


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