Missing Hiker in Mesa Verde National Park

Clue Emerges in Search for Missing 73 Year Old Hiker in Mesa Verde National Park

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO In a recent development in the ongoing search for 73-year-old Thomas Irwin, who disappeared while hiking in Mesa Verde National Park, authorities have discovered a potential new clue that could provide insight into his whereabouts.

Irwin, described as a 6-foot-tall white male weighing 250 pounds with gray hair and brown eyes, was last seen on January 15, 2024, hiking the Petroglyph Point Trail. Wearing a dark gray flannel shirt, blue jeans, and tan hiking boots, Irwin, who suffers from cognitive impairment and requires medication, has become the focus of an extensive search effort by park rangers and local authorities.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has reported that Irwin’s vehicle was found in the park, but there had been no sign of him until the recent development. A cellphone, believed to belong to Irwin, was turned into the park’s museum on January 16. Authorities are now seeking more information from the individual who found the phone, as well as from anyone who was in the park on January 15.

The Petroglyph Point Trail, described as a 2.4-mile, strenuous loop, is known for its challenging terrain, including narrow, rugged paths and steep drop-offs. The trail leads to a significant petroglyph panel, an area of historical and archaeological importance.

Park officials have issued a reminder about the dangers of hiking in the park, emphasizing the risks of dehydration, altitude sickness, and the treacherous cliff edges along the trails. Hikers are advised to drink water, rest frequently, and stay clear of unstable cliff edges.

The National Park Service is urging anyone with information about Irwin’s whereabouts or who may have seen him on January 15 to contact Mesa Verde Dispatch at (970)529-4461 or the Colorado Bureau of Investigation at 970-565-8441.

Safety Tips for Hikers:

Hiking in the mountains is dangerous in any season, but especially during the winter months. Here are some best practices to stay safe and avoid getting lost in the backcountry.

  1. Always hike with a partner or in a group.
  2. Ensure you have enough water and take breaks to avoid dehydration and altitude sickness.
  3. Stay on marked trails and keep a safe distance from cliff edges.
  4. Inform someone about your hiking plan, including the trail you are taking and your expected return time.
  5. Carry a fully charged cell phone and a map of the area.
  6. Be aware of weather conditions and dress appropriately.
  7. If you have any medical conditions, ensure you carry necessary medications.

 

Learn more about mountain safety in our comprehensive free guide

Also, please consider supporting Colorado’s search and rescue teams and community by purchasing a Colorado SAR Card (COSAR Card). You can learn more here.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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