Well-known hiker, writer Karen Sykes missing on Mount Rainier
Karen Sykes, 70, carried adequate survival gear, park officials say. A friend described her as a knowledgeable, resourceful person who, at 70 years old, often goes on 13-mile runs.
The Associated Press
Crews searched Mount Rainier National Park on Friday for a prominent hiker and outdoors writer who was reported missing late Wednesday while she researched a story.
Karen Sykes, of Seattle, had adequate survival gear to camp overnight in an emergency, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.
Sykes is well-known in the Northwest hiking community and has led hikes through The Mountaineers Club. She has written numerous hiking articles and taken photographs for online publications and newspapers.
She wrote the book “Hidden Hikes” about hikes in Western Washington, and she co-wrote another book, “Best Wildflower Hikes: Washington.” She also has a blog: karenstrails.blogspot.com.
Sykes was working on a story when she went missing, Wold said.
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.
“Hiking is just her passion ... just her life,” said Geyer, 46, of Renton.
Geyer had hiked with her about three times before. He described her as a knowledgeable, resourceful person who, at 70 years old, often goes on 13-mile runs.
“She’s quick paced. She’s fast. She doesn’t linger,” he said. “She doesn’t take a lot of breaks. She’s very motivated and energetic.”
Wednesday saw fair hiking conditions, with a few clouds in the morning and a sunny afternoon, said Wold, the park spokeswoman.
Seven teams have been searching for Sykes since Wednesday. The weather was too cloudy Friday for aircraft to search for Sykes.
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.
Lola Kemp, a close friend who planned to hike with Sykes this weekend, said in an email Friday that she was anxious but still hopeful searchers will find Sykes, safely sheltered somewhere.
“She is the guru of trails,” said Kemp, adding that Sykes hikes 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,” Kemp said.
Greg Johnston, a former outdoors writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said Sykes is an avid, strong hiker who knows the mountain extremely well.
“If anybody can survive it, it’s her. She’s really tough and really savvy,” said Johnston, who recruited Sykes to write a weekly hiking feature that ran for more than a decade in that newspaper.
She also wrote for The Seattle Times.
Search teams were scouring steep, rugged terrain in the Owyhigh Lakes area for a second day Friday. They focused along the length of the 8-mile Owyhigh Lakes Trail.
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 had to be airlifted out of the search area.
In a separate search, an injured climber was airlifted Thursday off Double Peak on the eastern flanks of Mount Rainier after crews responded to a spot-locator beacon.
Seattle Times staff reporter Colleen Wright contributed to this report.