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Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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Please be respectful when posting - family and friends of fallen climbers might be reading this forum.
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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby Aug_Dog » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:38 am

robby40 wrote:June 30. Besides checking this site [too often] to get a vicarious mountain fix (thanks for that), I check some others. Starting about two or three days ago I began to see a cross on Holy Cross that I had never seen before from this web cam. From the photo links on this web site:

http://www.vail.com/mountain/current-conditions/mountain-cams.aspx

click on the "Two Elk Lodge" cam. The high point is Mountain of the Holy Cross. Anyone else see a prominent Roman Cross to the left of the peak? Pretty nice... Made me think of James.


wow ... that's pretty freaking cool! kind of gave me goosebumps ...
Go get it

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby kansas » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:40 am

Amazing! They should name the mountain after that feature...oh, wait.
"In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams."
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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby gothiclove » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:57 am

http://www.vail.com/mountain/current-conditions/mountain-cams.aspx

Yep, that's a pretty good overall view of what the snow conditions are at this time. I would like to also note that the snow, while very visible in this webcam shot above treeline, is also down in the trees to about 10-10,500, which you cannot see in the webcam shot.
I'm sure that someone will be very quick to let you know when the snow has receded enough to make extended hiking and backpacking trips reasonable in this area. Hang tight.

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby cnelsonwaters » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:34 pm

Entering the second week of Aug. and heard that snow is melting and people are starting to hike into Holy Cross. Wanted to repost this so people would contuine to spread the word that James Nelson, of Chicago (formally from Iowa City, Iowa) has been missing since Oct 8th, 2010. He was on a 5 day solo hike from Fall Creek trailhead around Mt Holy Cross and returning to Half Moon Trailhead. Posters are placed at trailhead and any information can be found in early pages of this form or contact SARS in Vail or Edwards, Colorado.

James is about 5'7 and would now have more facial hair and hair on his head (both brown) (He does have a very big receeding hair line). He wears glasses. Was about 300lbs, but will be thinner if found now. More detail information can be found through SARS. He was last seen around Lake Constaintine. He had hiking poles and a 40lb pack with him.

If you find any clues, clothing, debree, footprints, garbage, waste, please contact SARS.

Thank you and please be safe when hiking.

Christy (James' sister)

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby djkest » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:37 pm

Hi Christy, thanks for the summary. This makes me want to reconsider and do holy cross despite the access issues. Unfortunately it would be much more luck than skill at this point finding him based on the searching that was done by SAR and by individuals last year.
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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby cnelsonwaters » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:42 pm

djkest wrote:Hi Christy, thanks for the summary. This makes me want to reconsider and do holy cross despite the access issues. Unfortunately it would be much more luck than skill at this point finding him based on the searching that was done by SAR and by individuals last year.


LUCK AND PRAYS ARE ALL WE CAN GO ON RIGHT NOW....NEVER GIVE UP....JUST KEEP HIKING :)

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby mattpayne11 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:43 pm

I have had a lot of thoughts about James ever since October and hope that resolution can be found soon. I had originally posted some questions but I see that most if not all of them have already been answered!

Good luck in the search for James!
Last edited by mattpayne11 on Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby djkest » Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:00 pm

Matt,
I understand your good intentions but most of these questions have been beaten to death earlier in the thread. It's no secret that HC area is one where it isn't difficult to get lost. Because of the time of the year that this happened, it is surely possible for this to be correct without any foul play or alterior motives. It started to get cold and snowy right around this time.

I can say that James had plenty of backpacking experience and he was probably equipped with 45lbs of gear and not 80. If he spent extra money and research on getting lightweight gear would he really be equipped with 80 lbs?

Edit: changed 40 lbs to 45 lbs... based on sheer weight of his backpack.
Last edited by djkest on Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby Erik2 » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:57 am

Hi all,

First of all, to Christy, Cathy, and all of James' friends and family: I can't even begin to imagine how hard the past year must have been, and hope that if nothing else, you have been able to sense the genuine concern and sadness of all of those who love the mountains out here. We all continue to believe that one of us will eventually stumble across something that may help to bring some measure of closure for all of you.

I'm planning to slip out for a long day hike or two after the kids are back in school and before the snow arrives again. Since I just want to get up high in a pretty place, I'm planning to hike through some sections of the route James planned to take. I completely agree with the earlier comment by djkest that after the comprehensive searches of the entire area last year by SAR and several folks on this site, it will just be a matter of luck for someone like me without any formal training to spot anything useful at this point.

Despite the long odds, I will be keeping my eyes open (and should have along a cheap but reasonably effective spotting scope we bought for a recent trip to see grizzlies in Yellowstone), so figured it was worth posting my tentative plans in case any of you who know the area best have any thoughts regarding specific places that may be worth scanning more closely. Since access is tough this year at the beginning of his route, I'll most likely hike the second half of his route during my first trip, then possibly follow Shaun's directions for the east side of Fancy Pass later in the fall. I plan to take a long day hike up Cross Creek, probably from the Cross Creek Trailhead, or possibly going up Martin Creek and back Cross Creek. If I successfully target a day with good weather and no thunderstorms, I hope to get up to the turnoff toward Fancy Pass, yielding views of the entire west side of Holy Cross and Cross Creek drainage along the way.

As an aside, I know that one of Cathy's foremost wishes is for all of those out looking for James to stay safe. So, a quick note just so I don't raise any concerns that I will inadvertently create new issues for SAR. I know this will be a long hike, but have done several this long in the past, including Snowmass and Whitney as 20+ mile dayhikes (not sure I'd do that again, but that's another story...), so I think I should be able to safely do a hike of this length as long as I avoid getting into technical terrain off trail. I will finalize and leave details of the plan with my family before I go, and plan to stick exclusively to the trails for similar reasons (and due to my nonexistent technical skills...).

A few specific questions / requests for input:

1. I know Tigiwon is still closed. In spring of 2010 Bill posted a trailhead update that said "the gate closure is 0.7 miles up from the bottom of the Tigiwon road", and his description looks like it matches a gate shown on the Trails Illustrated map. Does anyone who has been through there this year happen to know if this is also the closure point for this summer, or if the road is closed all the way down at 24? (I'm mostly interested in how many miles it will add to get to the Cross Creek trailhead if I decide to go in that way).

2. I'll be sure to watch the creek closely the entire way for any signs that may have emerged during the spring runoff, and will definitely carefully scan the entire East Cross Creek drainage. If anyone has any thoughts regarding other specific areas to scan more closely along this route I'd be excited to hear them (Shaun and Makalu, see specific questions below).

3. Shaun, if you happen to see this: one location that clearly seemed to warrant a long look is the ramp heading up from Reeds Meadow toward the East Cross Creek drainage that you describe in this trip report: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=9383. I'm just trying to make sure that I have a correct sense where this is, so marked it on the terrain map below. Does this look about right based on your memory of the area?

4. I'm 99% certain that we would have heard something if there was anything on it, but just to be sure: I assume no new information was obtained from the camera that was found in this trip report by Makalu? http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=10242. (about halfway through, the report mentions that Eagle county SAR was looking at the camera to see if any of the images could be read). Assuming that the results were inconclusive, I figure this location would be another good place to scan carefully, so also attempted to mark this approximate location based on the trip report. Makalu, if you happen to see this, does that look approximately correct to you?

Holy Cross.jpg
Holy Cross.jpg (90.83 KiB) Viewed 5332 times


(Cathy and Christy, I know this entire thing is awful beyond words, and apologize in advance if my final question adds to that.)

5. Finally, if a person's remains have been in the woods for this long (or potentially were buried during the winter and only emerged recently during the spring runoff), are there any less obvious signs I watch for? For example, would there tend to be birds circling over the area or other things along those lines?

Thanks to all for any input. Stay safe out there.

Erik

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby shaunster_co » Wed Aug 17, 2011 11:34 am

Erik;

Yes that is the ramp area I am referring to. It seems like a likely ascent route from the CC drainage to the ECC drainage when approaching from the west to east down that drainage, or route of least resistance for lack of better words.

Also; to your question #1 on Tigiwon - the gate resides roughly where the Cross Creek Trailhead is roughly .7 miles from HWY 24.

I should mention, when I was in there with Lacee a few weeks ago (we did the route from Hunky Dory Lake TH, to Tuhare Lakes, summit, and then spent a day around Constantine Lake area), we did find a bag of items in a plastic trash bag, REI pants, shirt, socks, etc that had been there through the winter and had significant critter damage. We also found some other debris. I photographed everything we saw and forwarded the GPS information to VSAR and the Eagle County SO, and they did followup with a further search of the area. These items were found on the S/SE side of Constantine up the drainage in the woods. I have not posted about it because I did not want to give false hope. My advice is this though - If you do find items, no matter how insignificant you think they might be - just mark them as a waypoint on the GPS (or map), and probably leave the items in situ, and /or photograph them. Let VSAR and the Eagle County SO decide if it warrants a further search. As it turns out I do not think the items we found belonged to James [unverified], but they are consistent with what a backpacker or scout would do (wrapping them in a plastic bag that is).

I think two areas of interest [my opinion only] is the CC / ECC area up to the Halfmoon Trail. I will state the obvious and say be very careful in there. My own experience in that drainage - specifically the bushwhack route - it is steep with hidden cliffs, deadfall, and some loose debris. Most of that drainage once you leave Cross Creek and proceed up East Cross Creek is in a satellite footprint (PLB's, Spot, GPS, even cell do not work). The other area is Constantine, and possibly the ridge line above it (where the trees begin). I actually want to go back in there again this Fall to the Constantine area above the lake, particularly the ridge adjacent to Notch Mountain extending down to the Halfmoon Campground.

My own reasoning tells me you may not find much - but you will likely find 'gear scatter' under the growth resembling a skier 'yard sale'. There are many items he had will not biodegrade anytime soon, including trekking poles. Again, these are just my opinions.

Be safe in there Erik, let me know if I can be of any further help.

Edit: This is a photo from last year when we were in there. I denoted 'the ramp' in the photo with a red arrow above where Elle is pointing in the photo. This was taken across the drainage just down a ways from Reeds Meadow.
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ECC_CC.jpg
Looking southwest to ECC - MOHC
ECC_CC.jpg (129.42 KiB) Viewed 4747 times

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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby djkest » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:41 pm

Malaku and the found camera:
http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=10242&parmpeak=Mt.+of+the+Holy+Cross&cpgm=tripmain&ski=Include

I'm afraid the window for snow-free searching is open now but will be closing soon. It's still possible that some could make it up in this area to take a look around.
I'm guessing that neither the found clothing or the found camera have contributed to this SAR effort?
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Re: Lost Hiker on Mt Holy Cross

Postby catlyoung » Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:35 pm

djkest wrote:Malaku and the found camera:
http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=10242&parmpeak=Mt.+of+the+Holy+Cross&cpgm=tripmain&ski=Include

I'm afraid the window for snow-free searching is open now but will be closing soon. It's still possible that some could make it up in this area to take a look around.
I'm guessing that neither the found clothing or the found camera have contributed to this SAR effort?


I do not know anything regarding the camera that was found and if SAR was able to retrieve any photos from the card. My guess is that being exposed to the elements probably did the camera and card in so it is ulikely that any photos could be pulled off of it.

Regarding the clothing that Shaun found that was retrieved by SAR, I do not believe it to be James'. James always packed clothing in ziplock bags which this bag was not. Although the pants found were REI brand the waist size is too small I believe to have been James'. The other articles of clothing don't fit what James had packed. I was hopeful that some clue had been found, but I am afraid that has been ruled out.
Thank you all for keeping us in your thoughts and for your efforts in going out to HCW to look. I can't express how much I appreciate the efforts of all to help us find closure and resolution.
Please be safe and do not take any chances on your endevors to HCW whether it be to just hike or to look. This wilderness, though very beautiful, is also very rough and dangerous.
God Bless you all and walk with you.
Cathy Nelson

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