By Logan Smith

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — Ten days after Josh Hall disappeared in the high country west of Nederland, his family continued to express hope Saturday for his rescue – no matter his condition.

“So desperate to find him one way or the other,” Laura Vukson, Hall’s mother, told CBS4 via social media.

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Hall, 27, left his car at the Hessie Trailhead for a stroll in Colorado’s mountains on Feb. 3rd. It’s thought he planned for a five- or six-hour hike of almost 11 miles to the Devil’s Thumb Lake area.

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But the first of consecutive storms system rolled in during his trek, creating near white-out conditions.

Hall’s cell phone was pinged at noon in the general area to the east of Devil’s Thumb Lake, perhaps near Jasper Lake.

That was the last clue to his location.

Boulder County dispatch received its first phone call about Hall at 6:18 p.m., a little more than an hour after he was expected home.

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Over the course of the next three days, dozens of searchers spent a total of 650 hours tracing his footsteps. They gave up as more storms rolled in and snow accumulated.

Aircraft launched when the skies were clear but were buffeted by high winds and had to turn back.

Thursday, the dog Hall was hiking with, Happy, walked out of the forest. He was discovered about 14 miles from the Hessie trailhead.

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Hall’s family is hoping against all odds that he does the same.

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“Just don’t understand why we haven’t been able to find him,” Vukson wrote. “We do believe he was up at Continental Divide or Devils Thumb Lake when weather came through but he is experienced, very fit and smart.”

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Happy the dog was uninjured, save for a few marks around his muzzle, Vukson stated.

“He lost about 15 pounds,” she said, “and he slept so much the last 2 days but to be expected.”

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The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, speaking on behalf of all the involved rescue agencies – Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, Alpine Rescue Team, Larimer County Search and Rescue, Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, Front Range Rescue Dogs, Nederland Fire Protection District, Boulder Emergency Squad, Colorado Search and Rescue Association, and the Air Force Resource Coordination Center – responded to citizens Friday. In a Facebook post, BCSO said it received several suggestions to use search dogs to follow Happy’s trail back into forest.

However, that wouldn’t work, BCSO explained. Search dogs are trained to ignore the scent of other animals in favor of tracking humans.

To put it simply, searchers simply have to wait for better weather.

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“Search crews have narrowed down the highest probability area where we believe Josh is. A search team was able to access the east end of Devils Thumb Lake last Thursday, but unfortunately, we have not been able to conduct a full search of this high probability area due to the conditions (thigh to chest deep snow, white out visibility, avalanche hazards, and winds gusting 30-40 miles per hour). We will not be able to conduct large ground searches for Josh due to safety concerns for the volunteer search and rescue teams. We will continue to look for breaks in the weather, which will allow an aerial search to be conducted in the high probability area.”

(credit: Facebook)

Logan Smith