In the heart of northern Colorado, an anxious search continues for a 49-year-old man who vanished in Rocky Mountain National Park late last month. Chad Pallansch, a resident of Fort Collins, has been missing since the last text message he sent on September 27th, which places him nearing the peak of Mount Alice, approximately seven miles from Bear Lake.
Pallansch isn’t an average hiker lost in the woods. Fit and seasoned, he boasts an impressive trail running portfolio which includes marathons. He was reported overdue on September 28th. Park rangers traced his vehicle to the North Inlet Trailhead on the park’s western edge.
From the East Inlet Trailhead close to Grand Lake, Pallansch ventured on a challenging 28-mile journey. His route led him across the Continental Divide, along recognized trails and beyond, traversing steep talus slopes. This was his first time attempting this specific route. That said, Pallansch is no novice to the park’s terrain; he’s previously run countless routes, including succeeding in more than 30 ascents of Longs Peak.
Despite being equipped with a personal navigation device, Pallansch’s tool lacked an emergency assistance feature, leaving rescue teams reliant on other means to locate him. The efforts have scaled significantly with at least 77 individuals, including three dog teams and a drone team from the state Department of Fire Prevention and Control, contributing to the aerial and ground search.
For the benefit of the diligent dog teams, park officials have cordoned off a section of the park stretching from Mount Alice to McHenry’s Peak to limit scent distractions. Unfortunately, weather conditions have presented obstacles for the ground search efforts, with high elevation snow, ice, and wind all causing setbacks.
Encouragingly, the cloud cover began to lift on Friday afternoon, allowing for improved conditions for air operations. Helicopters traced Pallansch’s possible routes, capturing high-resolution photographs of elevated ridgeline areas.
The broad-shouldered 5 feet, 7 inches tall Pallansch was likely wearing his typical running attire upon his disappearance: a black ultralight jacket, black running shorts or leggings, and a gray fanny pack. As the tireless efforts to find Pallansch continue, hope remains that he simply lost his way and that, using his extensive experience and grit, he can find a safe path home.