Missing Hiker Ian O'Brien

Concerns Mount Over Missing Hiker Ian O’Brien in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains

LA PLATA COUNTY, CO – An urgent search is underway for Ian O’Brien, a hiker missing since June 24 in Colorado’s San Juan mountains. The search teams, which include K-9 units, drones, air support, and numerous volunteers, are coordinated by the La Plata County Search and Rescue and have been tirelessly scouring the wilderness since his disappearance, according to KDVR.

O’Brien, a resident of Colorado, last communicated with his partner on June 24 after successfully summiting Hesperus Mountain, located northwest of Durango. Despite equipped with a Garmin inReach satellite device and a fully charged phone, his family has been unable to make contact.

Complicating the search is O’Brien’s medical condition – epilepsy. Though he had his medication with him, it’s uncertain whether he still has access to it. Molly O’Brien, his sister, stated that while Ian has extensive wilderness survival skills, the potential of him experiencing seizures without medication poses a considerable risk.

A promising lead came from witnesses who reported seeing a man resembling O’Brien, seemingly wandering without a backpack in the La Plata Canyon area on June 25. As of June 28, the family has adjusted their focus away from La Plata Canyon and towards Hesperus and areas closer to Mancos.

La Plata County Search and Rescue are urging anyone with relevant information to reach out to them at 970-385-2900. The family also started a GoFundMe campaign to support the continued search efforts.

Safety Tips for Outdoor Excursions

Ian O’Brien’s situation underscores the critical importance of safety measures when embarking on outdoor adventures. Here are some key safety tips:

  1. Inform others of your plans: Always let someone know your intended route and estimated return time. Check in regularly if possible.
  2. Carry essential supplies: This includes food, water, maps, compass, first aid kit, a multi-purpose tool, and rain gear and extra clothing. Always carry more than you expect to use.
  3. Medical Precautions: If you have a medical condition, ensure you have access to your necessary medications and that others know about your condition.
  4. Stay on the trail: Maintaining your course can reduce the risk of getting lost and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you if necessary.
  5. Use GPS Devices: Technology like Garmin’s inReach satellite devices can be invaluable in emergencies, allowing you to send SOS signals and enable rescuers to locate you.


This incident serves as a sobering reminder of the risks associated with outdoor activities, particularly in wilderness areas. Staying prepared and following safety guidelines can help prevent such unfortunate events and ensure a safer outdoor experience. Read our mountain safety guide for more information.

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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