Randy Wyrick

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October 8, 2013
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Human remains found in Holy Cross wilderness identified as missing hiker's

EAGLE COUNTY — The top half of a skull uncovered in the Holy Cross wilderness area is among the remains of a hiker who went missing in 2010.

Last summer, hikers found the top of a skull near James Nelson’s campsite. Medical examiners determined this week that the skull was Nelson’s.

Officials have no idea how Nelson died, but they know how he didn’t.

“There was no blunt force trauma. In fact, there was no trauma to it at all,” said Kara Bettis, Eagle County coroner.

Altitude sickness

Nelson’s journal entries indicate he had been suffering from symptoms of altitude sickness.

Nelson, 31, of Chicago, set out Oct. 3, 2010, for a five-day, 25-mile hike in the Holy Cross Wilderness. His fiancee reported him missing Oct. 8. Over four days, 116 people searched for more than 1,000 hours for Nelson.

In 2012, hikers found some of Nelson’s remains near his campsite, located just 50 feet off the Holy Cross jeep road near the abandoned mining camp Holy Cross City. Investigators also found camping and hiking gear that matched descriptions given to police by Nelson’s fiancee after he went missing.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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The VailDaily Updated Oct 9, 2013 12:38PM Published Nov 5, 2013 04:06PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.