A German man’s 1983 disappearance on a mountaineering trip in Colorado has finally been solved nearly 40 years later.
Rudi Moder was 27 years old when he vanished on a planned three-day excursion in Rocky Mountain National Park.
On Thursday, authorities announced the discovery of remains believed to belong to Mr Moder.
The Grand Coroner’s office has not been able to confirm the identity of the remains through dental records, but said personal items including skis, poles and boots thought to have been Mr Moder’s were found over the summer.
Mr Moder, an experienced mountaineer, was reported missing by his roommate on 19 February, 1983, after he failed to return from his hiking trip through Thunder pass and into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Early search efforts were thwarted by heavy snow that buried potential tracks and clues.
A food supply belonging to Mr Moder and a snow cave where he left his sleeping bag and other gear were found near the mouth of a canyon in the northwest corner of the park, but failed to help lead search crews to him.
The case went cold until August 2020, when a hiker came across human remains near avalanche debris at Skeleton Gulch.
However park officials were unable to conduct a thorough investigation at the time because they were preoccupied by two large wildfires in the area.
While the coroner was ultimately unsuccessful in officially identifying the remains, park officials announced the closure of the case this week.
The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the German government to repatriate the remains to Mr Moder’s native country.
A spokesperson for the park, Kyle Patterson, said Mr Moder was believed to have been trapped in an avalanche.
“Remains were scattered within the slide path,” Mr Patterson said. “It does not appear that there have been more avalanches in the same slide path based on tree size and growth.”
Don Davis, who works for Larimer County Search and Rescue and was part of early efforts to locate Mr Moder, told CBS Denver: “My reaction was ‘Finally’. Finally, we know where he was.”
Mr Davis, now 72, recalled having very little information about Mr Moder when the search began.
He said there wasn’t even a photo of Mr Moder because he hadn’t been in the US long, but officials had been told he had ample experience mountaineering solo around the world.
“He died doing what he liked to,” Mr Davis said. “At 27, you’re not thinking about your death at that point.”
In a statement announcing the closure of the case, NPS said: “In the decades following Moder’s disappearance, search efforts continued periodically by Rocky Mountain National Park staff and Larimer County Search and Rescue Teams.
“The discovery and recovery of Rudi Moder’s remains closes out a nearly four-decade-long cold case at Rocky Mountain National Park.”