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Remains in Colorado Are Believed to Be West German Hiker Missing Since 1983

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Human remains found in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado are believed to be those of a hiker who disappeared nearly 40 years ago during a ski trip, officials at the park said on Thursday.

In February 1983, Rudi Moder, a 27-year-old man from West Germany who was living in Fort Collins, Colo., was reported overdue by his roommate, six days after he had set out for a two-to-three-night ski trip over Thunder Pass and into the Rocky Mountain National Park, the National Park Service said in a news release on Thursday. Mr. Moder had been described as an experienced winter mountaineer.

During an extensive four-day search, rescuers found a snow cave that contained Mr. Moder’s sleeping bag and other gear, and a cache of food nearby.

Several search efforts were conducted across the area that spring and summer, and Rocky Mountain National Park staff and Larimer County Search and Rescue Teams have looked for Mr. Moder periodically ever since.

“There’s got to be some skis, clothing or remains up there somewhere,” Don Davis, an instructor at Wilderness Institute of Survival Education, told The Rocky Mountain News in 2004. “We’re still looking for Rudi” when time allows, he said.

In August 2020, officials received their first big break in the case: A hiker found skeletal remains near avalanche debris in the Skeleton Gulch area. That region of Rocky Mountain National Park is known for hiking and running and is best used from June to October.

Rangers started an investigation but did not complete it because of wildfires in the area, the news release said. During another search this summer, park rangers found skis, poles and boots, along with what officials believe were the remains of Mr. Moder’s personal items. The Federal Bureau of Investigations Evidence Response Team assisted park rangers with the recovery of remains.

Attempts by the Grand County Coroner’s office to identify the remains through dental records were inconclusive, the release said. It also noted that officials had worked with the German government to analyze dental records, notify the family and repatriate the remains.

Rocky Mountain National Park officials did not immediately return requests for comment on Friday, including questions about the German government’s role in recovering the remains.

This year, investigators in the United States and Europe have worked to solve several cases involving missing hikers in national parks and other mountainous regions. Fred Zalokar, a marathoner and accomplished athlete, was found dead in Yosemite National Park in California in July. The same month, the remains of Esther Dingley, a British woman who vanished while hiking alone in the Pyrenees mountains a year ago, were found after an exhaustive search. In September, search teams found the body of Robert Lowery in Teton Pass, a heavily forested area in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming, after he had been missing more than a month.

Using data from Freedom of Information Act requests, Outforia, an outdoors publication, counted Rocky Mountain National Park as the nation’s eighth-most deadly park, with 49 deaths between 2010 and 2020. The Grand Canyon topped the list with 134 deaths.

Daniel Victor contributed reporting.

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