ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities believe they have recovered the body of a man who went missing in Rocky Mountain National Park in February 1983.

Rudi Moder, described as a 27-year-old West German living in Fort Collins and an experienced winter mountaineer, was reported missing six days after embarking on a planned two- to three-night backcountry ski trip.

The search for Moder was hampered by more than a foot of snow that fell in the area on the very day he was reported overdue.

Search crews examine avalanche debris during an effort to find a missing hiker in February 1983. (credit: Rocky Mountain National Park)

In mid-August 2020, another hiker discovered what is believed to be Moder’s remains, the park stated in a press release Thursday morning.

The skeletal remains were found in – remarkably – Skeleton Gulch.

The subsequent investigation by park rangers was disrupted by the closure of the area due to the growth of the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires, soon followed by snowfall, the park stated.

The investigation resumed this past summer. Park rangers, assisted by the FBI Evidence Recovery team, further searched the scene and found skis, poles and boots, along with remains of personal items believed to belong to Moder.

“We are assuming he was caught in an avalanche,” RMNP spokesperson Kyle Patterson told CBS4. “The original search teams in 1983 observed several avalanches within the search area on the first day of the search. Remains were scattered within the slide path. It does not appear that there have been more avalanches in the same slide path based on tree size and growth.”

Moder left the Zimmerman Lake Trailhead near Cameron on February 13, 1983, and hiked south-southeast into RMNP territory. During that year’s four-day search, searchers found a food cache near the mouth of Box Canyon, then a snow cave with Moder’s sleeping bag and other gear nearby.

Aerials operations conducted in February 1983 in a search effort to find missing hiker Rudi Moder. (credit: Rocky Mountain National Park)

Periodic searches by park and county personnel in the years since produced no other clues.

Since this summer’s recovery, the Grand County Coroner’s Office has attempted to identify the remains through dental records. The effort was not successful.

The remains have been returned to Germany with the help of that country’s government.



Logan Smith