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.