Karen Sykes, experienced hiker, disappears on Mount Rainer (+video)
Karen Sykes, a well-known Seattle-based hiker and writer, disappeared Wednesday on a hike in Mount Rainer National Park. Sykes has survival gear to camp overnight in an emergency, says a Park official.
Seattle — Friends of prominent outdoors writer Karen Sykes are anxious but hopeful that searchers will find her safely sheltered somewhere in Mount Rainier National Park.
The well-known Seattle-based hiker was reported missing late Wednesday while she researched a story.
Search teams have not found her so far but park officials were resuming efforts Saturday morning.
A crew in a helicopter and about 30 people on the ground searched steep, rugged terrain in the Owyhigh Lakes area for a second day Friday. They are focused along the length of the 8-mile Owyhigh Lakes Trail.
Sykes had adequate survival gear to camp overnight in an emergency, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.
Safety concerns for Sykes and search crews include snow bridges, tree wells and steep, wet, slippery terrain, Wold said. A searcher was hurt Thursday when he punched through a snow bridge and was airlifted out of the search area.
Sykes is well-known in the Northwest hiking community and has written numerous hiking stories for online publications and newspapers. She is also a photographer and has written a book about hikes in western Washington.
One book "Hidden Hikes in Western Washington" had this review on Amazon.com: "...These are hikes that for whatever reason don't attract the hordes that commonly hike the most common trails. Many of them are "secondary" hikes that either don't have the splashy payoff commonly associated with the most popular hikes; but many more hikes are special by virtue of their history or their charm. These are hikes for those who miss the adventure of trying the unknown. And because Sykes is safely conservative in her recommendations, the reader can feel assured that the conditions will be no worse than expected."
She was working on a story when she disappeared, Wold said.
Her disappearance comes weeks after six climbers are believed to have fallen to their deaths while attempting to climb a challenging route to the summit of the 14,410-foot peak southeast of Seattle.
Sykes hiked ahead of her partner Wednesday when the two reached snow level at an elevation of about 5,000 feet on the east side of the mountain, Wold said. She was reported overdue several hours later.
Don Geyer, a friend of Sykes’, said she and her partner Bob Morthorst planned a day hike on Wednesday up the Owyhigh Lakes Trail for a piece she was writing. At around 5,000 feet in elevation, he said Morthorst took a lunch break while Sykes continued on, saying that she would be back in an hour; she would meet him on the way down.
She couldn’t go far, Geyer said, because the trail was covered in snow.
Morthorst reported her as overdue at around 10:30 p.m.
Close friend Lola Kemp had planned to hike with Sykes this weekend.
"She is the guru of trails," Kemp said Friday in an email, adding that Sykes hiked at least twice a week and has a background in climbing and scrambling. "I find it difficult to imagine that she would get lost. I think it's more likely she's injured and waiting, perhaps impatiently, to be rescued."
Greg Johnston, a former outdoors writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, described Sykes as an avid, strong hiker who knew the mountain extremely well.
"She's the last person anyone would expect to get lost, particularly on Mount Rainier," said Johnston, who recruited Sykes to write a weekly hiking feature for that newspaper, which ran for more than a decade. "If anybody can survive it, it's her. She's really tough and really savvy."
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