As rescue teams searched through deep snow and in high winds Wednesday, the mother of a 20-year-old hiker from Las Vegas said her son has the tools to survive after he was reported missing in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
Micah Tice, 20, was last heard from late Friday before he went missing, according to the national park’s website. Tice, whose Facebook account shows he graduated from Rancho High School in 2016, is a cadet candidate at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School.
The academy notified the national park Monday afternoon that Tice was missing, the park said.
Search efforts have focused on the southeast area of the park near Longs Peak, the highest mountain in the park at more than 14,000 feet. The peak is known as a difficult mountaineering route with many accidents, according to the park’s website.
His mother, Janice Tice, said her son researched the weather and chose to pursue the route before temperatures dropped to zero.
“He will survive and we will find him,” she said Wednesday.
On her Facebook page and in text messages to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, she said her son “has all the tools necessary to survive” and has researched the Longs Peak trail route before. She said one of her other sons recently told her that Micah Tice was prepared for the hike.
Park officials did not know his exact route Wednesday, but his vehicle was found at the Longs Peak Trailhead late Monday afternoon. Leadership at the Air Force Academy began looking into his whereabouts after he did not report to the school following the Thanksgiving break, academy spokeswoman Tabitha Lee said Tuesday.
Search and rescue teams began looking for him at sunrise Tuesday, and continued their search Wednesday.
The weather in the Longs Peak area on Saturday was poor with blizzard conditions, snow accumulation, extremely high winds and “bitter” cold temperatures, the park said. Those conditions continued with searchers encountering deep snow and high winds Tuesday and Wednesday.
Janice Tice said Wednesday that her son has hiked the Longs Peak trail in groups several times. He wanted to hike the trail in the snow “because he said it is unlike anything that you can see in a picture,” she said.
She said the 20-year-old had “several thousands of dollars worth of equipment” for the hike, including a water filtration system, ready-to-eat meals, tools for making fire in snow, medical supplies for self-administered first aid, and a shelter “that can go underneath snow.”
Wind hampers search effort
The wind prevented searchers from venturing higher than 12,000 feet on Wednesday, the park said. A Colorado National Guard helicopter crew was able to briefly search the Boulder Field area near Longs Peak on Tuesday, as well as the trail to Chasm Lake, but air operations were not possible because of the wind Wednesday.
The National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado, said the mountains in the search area could experience a few inches of snow accumulation Wednesday night, but the winds are starting to decrease.
“Weather up there can change rapidly,” said meteorologist Cari Bowen. “It’s a pretty active pattern for the mountains right now.”
Temperatures are expected to drop in the single digits to teens overnight, and then rise to the 20s during the day, she said. Wind gusts in the mountains could be up to 35 mph tonight, decreasing to 25 mph to 30 mph tomorrow.
Tuesday’s search included sections of the Longs Peak Trail, the Boulder Field to Keyhole area of the park, and the trail to Chasm Lake. Wednesday’s search continued in the Longs Peak Trail, the East Longs Peak Trail, Granite Pass and Jim’s Grove areas.
Search teams also looked for the hiker in the Estes Cone area, the Boulder Brook Trail, the Storm Pass area and the Roaring Fork Drainage section, all along or near the Longs Peak Trail, the park said Wednesday.
Colorado’s Summit County search and rescue dog team and Alpine Rescue Team members who helped search efforts Tuesday were joined by Larimer County search and rescue dog team, the park said.
Park rangers asked anyone who was in the Longs Peak area since Saturday morning or who may know Micah Tice’s planned route to call the park at 970-586-1204.