Remains believed to belong to an Air Force Academy student who went missing in Rocky Mountain National Park late last year were found Friday by search and rescue crews.
Twenty-year-old Micah Tice, of Las Vegas, was reported missing on Nov. 26 after he was last seen Nov. 24 in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Private searchers affiliated with the Tice family reported Thursday to park staff that they found items believed to belong to Tice, according to a news release from the park. The items were found below treeline in the Boulder Brook drainage, according to the release. The Boulder Brook drainage was one of the areas where initial search efforts were heavily focused. However, through the winter and spring, the area was covered in deep snow.
After the items were found Thursday, Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members focused search efforts in the area Friday and discovered the remains.
Rangers completed an on-scene investigation and recovery operations were taking place Friday afternoon, according to the release. The remains will be transferred to the Larimer County Coroner’s Office, which will complete an autopsy and release identification after it has done so, the release stated.
Tice’s disappearance was first reported to the park staff on Nov. 26. Tice, a cadet with US Air Force Prep School Academy, was believed to have gone missing within the park in the Longs Peak area. Tice’s vehicle was found at Longs Peak Trailhead.
The investigation determined Tice likely attempted to climb Longs Peak on Nov. 24 in blizzard conditions. Witnesses on Nov. 29 reported they saw and talked with Tice on Nov. 24 between 7:30 and 8 a.m. The two visitors indicated the weather was terrible at the Longs Peak Trailhead and that visibility and weather conditions continued to worsen, the release stated. Tice was reported to be wearing a black sweatshirt, black sweatpants, a black hat, black lightweight gloves, tennis shoes and a light blue backpack. The visitors discouraged Tice from continuing to the summit due to his clothing, footwear and weather conditions. The route Tice intended to take was not known.
On Nov. 27, three days after Tice was last seen, active search efforts began in the Longs Peak area of the park. A Colorado Air National Guard Blackhawk helicopter attempted to assist with aviation operations, but was curtailed due to 90-plus mph winds.
Longs Peak is the park’s highest peak at 14,259 feet in elevation. In late fall through early summer, Longs Peak is an extreme ascent that requires advanced winter mountaineering skills, the release stated. Conditions on Nov. 24 in the area were considered to be severe, including significant snow accumulation, extremely high winds, blizzard conditions, and bitter cold temperatures, according to the release.
Ground and aerial searches were conducted Nov. 27 through Dec. 3 over a roughly 10-square-mile area, concentrating on sections of the Longs Peak Trail, the East Longs Peak Trail, the Battle Mountain area, Granite Pass, Jim’s Grove, the Boulder Field, Mount Lady Washington, Chasm Lake, Peacock Pool, the Boulder Brook drainage, the Storm Pass Trail, and the Wind River drainage.
On Dec. 2, the first day conditions were conducive to flying the area, the Colorado Air National Guard performed reconnaissance of the entire Keyhole Route to the summit of Longs Peak.
On Dec. 4, search efforts were suspended, prompting response from Tice’s father that the National Park Service had not done enough to find his son. Tice’s father, Benjamin Tice, on Dec. 7 held a news conference and alleged the National Park Service rebuffed his family’s pleas that help be sought from the military. Specifically, Tice cited, the Fort Carson’s Mountaineering Division. During that same news conference, Tice was reported to have also pleaded for help from state and federal officials, including President Donald Trump, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Governor-elect Jared Polis.
With a break in the weather, the search resumed the weekend of Dec. 8 and 9, and more efforts were made to locate Micah Tice in the ensuing week. . Search activities were focused from the Granite Pass area to the northern lower slopes of Longs Peak, including the Wind River and Boulder Brook drainages. On Dec. 10, due to conducive weather conditions at high elevations on Longs Peak, teams focused their efforts on the Keyhole Route to the summit of Longs Peak as well as the Chasm Lake area, Clark’s Arrow and the Loft. On Dec. 11, searchers again focused efforts in the Wind River drainage.
When not making the search impossible, weather made the effort difficult. Searchers experienced chest deep snow, thick snow covered forests, and vast areas of dead and down trees, especially in drainages away from snow-packed trails, according to the release. At higher elevations, winds scoured the landscape leaving it bare or depositing deep drifted snow.
“Those conditions existed from the first day of search operations and can cover or erase clues. Depending on the search area and day, team members encountered harsh winter conditions including extreme winds, low visibility, bitter wind chills, below freezing temperatures, deep snow and high avalanche danger,” the release stated.
Since Tice disappeared, the park has worked closely with the U.S. Air Force Academy, coordinating investigative and operational assistance, and incorporating a team from the Air Force Academy Mountaineering Club in initial search efforts, according to the release. And the Air Force Academy Colorado Parents’ Club coordinated efforts from numerous organizations and individuals to donate daily meals for searchers, the release stated.
In addition to the search, Tice’s cell phone data also was used to try and locate him. The data revealed the phone was picking up a signal early the morning of Nov. 25 and showed a broad area where Tice might have been, which was used to focus the search efforts, according to the release.
A number of agencies helped in the effort to locate Tice including Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue, Larimer County Search and Rescue, Rocky Mountain Rescue, Colorado Air National Guard, Alpine Rescue Team, Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Grand County Search and Rescue, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Colorado Search and Rescue Association, Summit County Rescue Group Dog Team, Front Range Rescue Dogs, and FLIR Systems Inc., which volunteered its services to conduct thermal imaging of the search area, according to the release.