BLAINE COUNTY, Id. (KMVT/KSVT) The search for missing hiker Luke Richardson is being suspended. That’s the word from Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey. “Obviously this is not the outcome that we were hoping for, but after eight intensive days of searching we have exhausted our options, and technical and human resources. To this point we have expended almost 2000 man hours extensively searching 51 aerial square miles with up to 50 trained SAR personnel in the field at one point,” Sheriff Ramsey said.

Luke’s parents, Peter and Stephanie Richardson, have expressed their deep gratitude towards the search. “This is a huge endeavor, and we could not be more appreciative of what has been done. Every leaf and rock was looked under,” said Peter. “Luke is a huge hearted, generous and loving son. He would be honored at the tremendous effort made to locate him,” continued Peter.

Other than trail sightings, there have been no physical clues or indication of Luke’s location. “We have conducted a thorough search of the area and at this point feel further searches would not yield any new clues. Based upon the wide spread area that has been searched, and the nature of the terrain,” said Ramsey, “We feel that we cannot further endanger the safety of our technical teams." Custer County Sheriff Stuart Lumpkin confirmed it has been an exhaustive search, stating that "despite it being one of the largest searches conducted in many years, we are simply out of places where we can look."

Richardson, 25, was reported missing Monday, September 14, 2015 when he failed to report for work. He was last seen by other hikers on the Summit Creek Trail around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 12, 2015. He is reportedly wearing dark colored T-shirt and shorts with a day pack. His car was parked at the trailhead. His coat, sleeping bag and tent were later found in his home. There are no indications of the specific route he intended to use but was known for route spontaneity. Luke is an adventurist, avid outdoorsmen and enjoys bouldering, a form of rock climbing that is performed without ropes or harnesses. Luke, originally from Barre, Vermont, moved to the Wood River Valley of Idaho last April to work as an arborist and to be a part of a mountain community. “The mountains are where he found his true strength,” said Luke’s mother, Stephanie Richardson. Friends and family report that it was not uncommon for Luke to cover 20 or more miles at a time.

Mountaineering teams, ground teams, K-9 teams and a drone have been combing the difficult and steep terrain in the Summit Creek Trail area. The extensive search covered from Corral Creek North to where the Kane Lake Road meets the Trail Creek Road including west of the Trail Creek Falls, and from Trail Creek East all the way over to the Washington Lake area. Emphasis has been placed on the Devil’s Bedstead and Kane Lake area. Our teams have searched elevations from 6500 feet to 11,865 feet, a vertical gain of 5,345 feet, both on foot and with the aid of air support. Extreme conditions have challenged the search. “We are extremely grateful for the numerous offers for assistance; however, much of the terrain requires extremely advanced high angle rope experience, and is too technical for the use of community volunteers,” said Sheriff Ramsey. Additionally, weather earlier in the week added complexity. In addition to rain, fog, snow and ice, ridge temperatures were reported at 15 degrees with sustained 30 mph winds making it dangerous for searchers to be in some areas.

The joint operation has utilized trained search and rescue personnel from numerous agencies including Blaine County Sheriff's Office, Blaine County Search and Rescue, Custer County Sheriff Search and Rescue, Wyoming’s Teton County Sheriff Search and Rescue, Butte County Sheriff Search and Rescue, Bonneville County Sheriff Search and Rescue, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit, Sun Valley Fire Department, Sawtooth Mountain Guides, Galena Backcountry Patrol, Tri-State K-9, Two Bear Air Rescue, Reeder Flying Services, U.S. Army Air Guard units from Boise and Montana, and Air Force Rescue Central Command.

Sheriff Ramsey, Sheriff Lumpkin, and Luke’s parents all wish to thank everyone involved with efforts to find Luke Richardson. "The dedication of the men and women who have been looking for Luke is incredible," said Peter Richardson. "Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts, Luke has not been found." Flyers with a photo of Luke have been distributed to over 50 hunting camps in the area with a request to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

Community members have been very supportive of our efforts, donating food, supplies, accommodations for the family and visiting search personnel, and even air support. Ramsey stated, “We are extremely appreciative of the incredible outreach and support Luke's parents and our search teams have received. We ask now that the public focus their support on Luke’s family during this extremely difficult time.”