No trace of trail runner who vanished in Colorado mountains

Missing Arizona runner

Friends and family of a 28-year-old trail runner who vanished into the Colorado mountains over the weekend are continuing their desperate search as official efforts to locate the man have been called off.

Ian O’Brien of Page, Ariz., disappeared without a trace on June 24 after running to the summit of Hesperus Mountain, nestled in the La Plata Mountains of southwestern Colorado. After ascending the mountain, which has an elevation of more than 4,000 meters, O’Brien took a selfie to his girlfriend. Soon after, his GPS tracker and his cellphone went dead, and there has been no trace of his whereabouts since.

Ian O'Brien
Photo: La Plata County Search and Rescue

Earlier this week, officials in the area reported that a group of hikers saw O’Brien looking disoriented and walking into nearby woods, but later determined it was not O’Brien. “Nothing has been found. No evidence of anything,” Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin told USA Today on Thursday. “We don’t know where he went after he was on the summit.”

Despite extensive efforts to locate him, which have included US Air Force Black Hawk helicopters, search drones and scores of people combing the area by foot, no clue to his whereabouts had surfaced as of Friday.

According to USA Today, official search efforts have been called off, but volunteers are continuing to press on. A website has been set up to help co-ordinate volunteer efforts and provide updates. A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up to raise money “to cover medical costs, search costs, potential end of life costs and all unexpected financial barriers that will arise from this impactful event,” according to the fundraising site.

Go Fund Me campaign
Photo: GoFundMe

Complicating search efforts is uncertainty over whether O’Brien, who has epilepsy, has access to medication to treat his condition. “He left with it but may be separated from his bag,” notes a briefing to search volunteers posted at “If he is having seizures, he may not know his name or where he is, he may appear disoriented, combative, confused, and then he will likely sleep for long hours after a seizure.”

Just four days before going missing, O’Brien had posted on Facebook that he had started training for the Vacation Races Antelope Canyon Ultras, which takes place in the Arizona desert next March.

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