Six days after German mountaineer Rudi Moder went missing while skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park in February 1983, searchers stumbled upon what they identified as his “food cave” and sleeping bag. There were no tracks in the snow leading out of the cave, which left rescuers wondering what might have happened to the military-trained tourist.
For almost 40 years, even his family assumed he was still alive, perhaps having gone off the grid. Friends in Germany assumed he had gone underground, perhaps working for the government. Conspiracy theorists over the years often referred to his disappearance in connection to what was identified as “1942 German sonar-type sounds” near where his food cave was found.
Searches over the years turned up nothing until August 2020, when hikers found human remains in the Skeleton Gulch area near melted debris from a springtime avalanche. This week they were positively identified as Moder’s, closing a four-decade missing-persons case.
The area where Moder’s bones were found had been searched in the 1980s and was well-traversed, but the 2020 investigators had to cut short their search of the area due to the Cameron Peak Fire followed by the East Troublesome Fire, which forced them to evacuate. Much of the area was burned in the fire and was covered by snowfall shortly after; investigators are left to assume that his remains came down the mountain in the avalanche.
A year later, in August 2021, a team from the FBI Evidence Response Team searched the area once more and recovered his skis, poles, and boots and other items believed to belong to him, according to a press statement by the Rocky Mountain National Park Service.
Initial dental records proved inconclusive so a forensic coroner worked closely with Modi’s family in Germany for more than a year to finally positively identify the remains as his and finally put conspiracy theories to rest.