Michelle Rae Vanek

Vanek, circa 2005; Vanek in the clothes she wore on the day of her disappearance

  • Missing Since 09/24/2005
  • Missing From Eagle County, Colorado
  • Classification Lost/Injured Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 02/05/1970 (50)
  • Age 35 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'8, 145 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A blue lightweight ski jacket with white stripes on the sleeves, a black or red shirt, black stretch pants, a blue hat with a white stripe, and blue and white mittens. A photo of Vanek in those clothes is posted with this case summary.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes.

Details of Disappearance

Vanek was last seen on September 24, 2005, when she and a friend, Eric Sawyer, went to hike on the 14,000-foot Mount of the Holy Cross in Eagle County, Colorado. She was carrying a small Camelback water pack, some energy bars and ski poles.

The pair started out at 6:30 a.m., but they accidentally took a more difficult trail than they had intended and they moved much slower than they had planned.

Vanek lagged behind Sawyer most of the way. By 1:30 p.m., she had run out of water. About 400 yards short of the summit, she stated she couldn't go any further and told Sawyer to continue on without her. He told her to either wait for him, or go towards the East Cross Creek Trail, where they were going to begin their descent.

Sawyer arrived at the summit at 1:42 p.m. and called his wife from there. He stayed only a few minutes before turning back to rejoin Vanek. When he arrived at the boulder field where he'd last seen her, she was gone. She has never been heard from again.

An extensive, week-long search of the mountain turned up no indication of Vanek's whereabouts. She is presumed to have died in a mishap in the wilderness, perhaps a fall. She left behind a husband and four children.

Investigating Agency

  • Eagle County Sheriff's Office 970-328-8500

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated December 30, 2016; middle name, picture, date of birth, height and weight added, clothing/jewelry description updated.