After almost 40 years, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers believe they've recovered remains of missing hiker

Aerial search operations in 1983 for Rudi Moder Courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park.jpg
Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 18:44:51-04

The skeletal remains likely belonging to a man who disappeared in Rocky Mountain National Park 38 years ago were uncovered this summer.

Authorities say they believe the remains belong to a 27-year-old named Rudi Moder from West Germany who was living in Fort Collins at the time.

On Feb. 13, 1983, Moder, who was described as an experienced winter mountaineer, left the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead off Colorado Highway 14 just north of Cameron Pass, according to park officials.

He intended to go on a two- or three-night ski mountaineering trip over Thunder Pass and into Rocky Mountain National Park.

On Feb. 19, his roommate reported that he was overdue and search and rescue crews started to search for him early on Feb. 20. The day prior, more than a foot of snow fell over the Never Summer Mountains, which made searching for clues or tracks difficult, according to park officials.

In the northwest corner of the park at the mouth of Box Canyon, searchers found a food cache that belonged to Moder. Nearby, they found his sleeping bag, gear and other items.

No other items were found.

Larimer County Search and Rescue and Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Teams helped in the search.

Ground search operations in 1983 for Rudi Moder  Courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park.jpg

They continued to search the area around Box Canyon and Skeleton Gulch, including Mount Richthofen. The crews searched on skis, snowshoes and by air, and with the help of an avalanche search dog.

After four days of searching, efforts were called off on Feb. 23, though additional searches on the ground picked up in the following spring and summer, according to park officials. However, they were also unsuccessful.

In mid-August 2020, a hiker in the Skeleton Gulch area discovered skeletal remains near avalanche debris. The hiker alerted rangers, who conducted an initial investigation at the scene. However, they could not complete the investigation due to the Cameron Peak Fire — the biggest wildfire in recorded history in Colorado — burning in the area.

Then, winter weather moved in and blanketed everything above 11,000 feet.

In the summer of 2021, park rangers were able to return to the scene and found skis, poles and boots, along with personal belongings that likely belonged to Moder, according to park officials.

With the help of the FBI Evidence Response Team, rangers recovered the rest of the remains.

The Grand County Coroner’s office attempted to confirm the identification through dental records but the results were inconclusive, according to park officials. Officials have worked with the German government for repatriation, dental record analysis, and to notify Moder's family.