Missing Colorado hiker identified as Ravenswood man

A Chicago hiker who is lost in the Colorado mountains has been identified as a Ravenswood resident according to news reports.

James T Nelson, 31, an employee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, was reported missing by his fiancee to the Eagle County, Colorado Sheriff on October 8. He had set off on a circuitous 25 mile, five day hike near a 14,005 foot mountain in the Sawatch Range of Colorado called Mount of the Holy Cross.

Nelson is believed to be well prepared and an experienced hiker. However he did not bring his cell phone, is hiking alone and snow hit the Colorado high country over the weekend, leaving up to six inches of snow. He was last seen by other hikers on October 3. The Eagle County Sheriff reports Nelson has never hiked in Eagle County before.

Chicago Backpackers Meetup members have posted notes going back to 2006 praising Nelson. “James is one of the best backpackers to hike with. He has a inspiring passion for the sport,” according to a 2006 note left on his personal page by Tim Laurence.

In his own notes, Nelson writes, “I organize trips that tend to be strenuous and involve hiking for an entire day at a steady pace; often over difficult terrain or in challenging weather. Trips often require hiking 10+ miles. I am also quite knowledgeable about most backpacking gear.”

Sarah Masoulf, a writer for the Vail Daily said a mid-day report indicated the mountain rescue teams had worked the route Nelson indicated he would follow. Because of the geography, a hiker is most likely to follow certain paths, due to gulleys, streams, steep walls and so on, limiting the probable location. Masoulf wrote this morning in the Vail Daily that Nelson’s planned march took him through the same wilderness area in which Colorado resident Michelle Vanek disappeared in 2005. Vanek was not found despite “a massive search.”

Masoulf told The Bulldog that Vail weather is overcast this afternoon. She did not know the weather reports for the Sawatch Range.

Forty-eight volunteers joined the search on Monday, according to reports in the Vail Daily and Real Vail. They were joined by Colorado Army National Guard helicopters from the High Altitude Aviation Training Center at Eagle County Airport according to the Eagle County Sheriff. Real Vail reports the hikers are now looking for Nelson in “areas that are kind of hairy.”

Sven Klingemann, organizer of the Chicago Meetup Group has not responded to media inquiries, including an e-mail from The Bulldog. On the Meetup site he wrote, “As you may have heard by now, our fellow leader and friend James has gone missing on one of his solo hikes last week. At this time, numerous people are actively searching for him. We will keep you updated as we learn more. While we ask you to respect James’ family’s privacy, please keep him in your thoughts. We are all hoping that he will return safely!!”

Earlier this afternoon Klingemann updated the site to note, “as the search for James is still ongoing, we have received many requests from you as to how you could help in the process. We think that the best way to show our support is to actually make a contribution to those who are in the field – i.e. the Vail Mountain Rescue Group. This would not only show our appreciation for their present search, but also help them rescuing others in the future.”

Nelson had noted to the group that he would join them this Saturday at a beginners hike in Westville, IL. “If no one signs up I’ll go with you guys.” Westville is located south of Danville, about 150 miles south of Chicago in an area of the state known for being uncharacteristically flat.

James Nelson, 31, has been missing near Mountain of the Holy Cross in Eagle County, Colorado since October 3

James Nelson, 31, has been missing near Mount of the Holy Cross in Eagle County, Colorado since October 3. Photo from his Meetup Page

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Patrick Boylan

About Patrick Boylan

Patrick grew up near LaFollette Park on the West Side. He contends that the very best Italian beef sandwiches are made on the West Side and has a strange love of the flat pizza from that part of the city. Patrick led The Bulldog to win seven journalism awards in 2011, including four awards to Patrick as a solo or a team member. He is very proud of The Dog's coverage of politics and schools in the neighborhood. Patrick wrote for the Times of Northwest Indiana as a stringer covering Cook County Government, for the Chicago Tribune as a stringer on the Chicago Wolves and for ChicagoNow as a writer before starting The Dog. He wrote for four years for ChiTownDailyNews.org as a media commentator and spent about 20 years in operations at city newspapers, including nine years as owner of his own distribution company. Prior to that he spent about nine years in public relations. Patrick has a Masters degree from the University of Colorado. He attended Eastern Illinois University for undergrad and Weber High School and St. Peter Canisius grammar school. The two-flat he owns was built in 1912 and has never been featured, to his knowledge, in any major motion pictures despite having a way-cool garden. Patrick purchased the property in 1994 and "couldn't afford to buy it now." His daughter is a college student in California. He lives in the house with his wife, Jane, and two cats who often sit in on his phone interviews.

3 thoughts on “Missing Colorado hiker identified as Ravenswood man

  1. I’ve only just been reading this afternoon that after all this time they’ve at long last finished lifting those strong Chile minors out of that collapsed mine..:) magnificent. Next to this news article I read on those minors was a hyperlink to your page which I too found exceedingly fascinating.

  2. There is one correction that needs to be made in your fine article. The middle initial should be “B” not T. I strongly urge anyone that wishes to help and show support, even though the active search for James has been suspended, is to send a donation to the Vail Mountain Rescue Group. They are truely dedicated to Resuce, take missing hikers personaly, and ARE the BEST Rescue group in the Nation. Their expertise and thoroughness is outstanding! Their close communication with family and compassion for family have been a tremendous comfort throughout this difficult time. They will NOT give up even though the active search has come to a close. Our prayers go out to James and to all that have helped in his search. We can not thank-you all enough for the efforts and risks that you have taken in this search and for the wonderful support you have provided. God Bless all of you. May God Bless James and wrap his protective and loving arms around him.
    The family of James B. Nelson

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