76-year-old CA man — an ‘expert outdoorsman’ — vanishes on Wyoming backpacking trip

Fremont County Sheriff's Office

Steve Keller was hiking with a group not too far from their campsite in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming when he vanished, officials said.

The group started searching for the 76-year-old California man the moment they noticed his absence Sept. 2, but didn’t find him after several hours and sent out an SOS via satellite, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said in a Sept. 7 news release.

There have been no signs of him since, officials said.

Search and rescue teams flew into the area near Steamboat Lake, near Lander, Wyoming, to search on the ground and from the sky on Sunday, Sept. 3, officials said. But bad weather on Monday delayed their search efforts.

They kept searching on the ground and in the sky as weather allowed, but “the remoteness of the area, the high elevation, and the extremely rugged terrain have made searching extremely difficult,” officials said.

Keller’s niece posted a missing person flier on Facebook on Sept. 4.

“This is my uncle,” Betsy Briggs Miller said in the post. “We are deeply concerned.”

Miller said in the comments that Keller — whom she described as an “expert outdoorsman and very tough” — had gone on the same backpacking trip “dozens of times” before.

“He was leaving for a day hike and his pack was left at the campsite unfortunately,” she said.

Several people commented, saying they knew him from mission trips in the Philippines or that he was their longtime dentist in Palo Alto, California. The dental practice website shows him as retired “and missed by all.”

Keller worked at the Palo Alto Dental Group from 1979 to 2022, his daughter, Karen Jacobson-Sive, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a Sept. 6 update in the comments, Miller said weather was cooperating and a group of 16 people — as well as dogs and drones — would keep searching for her uncle.

“We are told today will be the last day the helicopter will bring people in” to search, she said.

She also thanked people who had volunteered to backpack in to help with the search.

“Steamboat Lake is about 10,000 feet elevation and 17 miles in from the trailhead,” she said. “Winter comes fast, this is not for the beginner backpacker.”

Keller is 6 feet tall and about 170 pounds, officials said. He was last seen wearing a green jacket with a black, blue and green Patagonia fleece.

Officials ask anyone with any information that might be helpful to contact the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office or the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Game and Fish Office.

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