ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK — Skeletal remains found in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park are believed to be those of a 27-year-old man from West Germany who disappeared during a multi-day mountaineering trip nearly 40 years ago, park officials said Thursday.
Rudi Moder, an experienced winter mountaineer who was living in Fort Collins, started his excursion over Thunder Pass and into the park Feb. 13, 1983. His roommate reported him overdue Feb. 19, 1983.
Searchers started looking for Moder the following day, but more than a foot (30 centimeters) of fresh snow prevented them from immediately finding tracks or other clues. The only major clues found during the four-day search were a food cache belonging to Moder that was discovered at the mouth of a canyon in the northwest corner of the park and a nearby snow cave with Moder’s sleeping bag and other gear and items inside.
The search included teams on skis and snowshoes, a dog trained to find people in avalanche debris and a helicopter. Additional searches were conducted that spring and into the summer.
In August 2020, a hiker found human remains near avalanche debris in the Skeleton Gulch area. Park officials say a thorough investigation could not be completed at the time because they had to shift priorities to fighting two massive wildfires. Snow then blanketed the area above 11,000 feet.
This summer, park rangers returned to the area and found skis, poles, boots and other personal items believed to have belonged to Moder. The Grand County coroner’s office tried to confirm the identity of the remains through dental records, but the results were inconclusive.
Still, park officials say they consider the case closed and are working with the German government to repatriate the remains.
East Germany and West Germany were reunited as of Oct. 3, 1990.