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Human remains found at Colorado campsite linked to missing Chicago man


According the the Eagle County Sheriff's office, this photo of James Nelson was taken in October 2010 on the day Nelson headed off on his hike. He never returned.

Updated at 1:48 p.m. ET: Human remains found near a campsite in a wilderness area in western Colorado could be those of a Chicago man who was reported missing after failing to return from a planned five-day hike in 2010, authorities say.

A camper scouting campsites near the ghost town of Holy Cross City on Friday came upon a site that apparently was used by James Nelson, 31. He was reported missing on Oct. 3, 2010, by his fiancee, when he failed to return from a five-day, 25-mile hike of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area near Minturn, Colo.

On Saturday, Vail Mountain Rescue and detectives from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office hiked to the location and discovered human remains nearby.

The remains were turned over to the Eagle County coroner for positive identification and cause of death. A call to the coroner's office on Sunday was not immediately returned.

A journal and notebook found at the campsite indicated that Nelson may have been suffering from altitude sickness at the time of his disappearance, said Jessie Mosher, a spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff's Office. "We have reason to believe that might have played a factor in his disappearance," she told msnbc.com on Sunday.

Other items recovered at the site indicate that some of Nelson’s gear is missing. Among the missing items are a camera, GPS unit and a camp stove, the sheriff's office said.

Since the human remains were found about 120 feet from the campsite, it's possible someone else had passed through the campsite and took those items without realizing there was a dead person nearby, Mosher said.

Eagle County Shriff's Office

Campsite in the Holy Cross Wilderness area believed to have been used by James Nelson of Chicago, who was reported missing in October 2010 after failing to return from a five-day hike.

Nelson’s proposed route included the summit of 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross, but he did not sign the summit register, according to the Real Vail.

The Holy Cross Wilderness Area is made up of some the most rugged terrain in Colorado and has about 164 miles of trails. Its elevation ranges roughly between 8,000 feet to 14,000 feet.

Nelson, an experienced hiker, worked for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Chicago office, the Chicago Tribune reported. He studied religion at McCormick Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary in Hyde Park and planned to teach theology at a university, his mother told the Tribune in 2010.

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