Mount Rainier search for outdoors writer suspended

Associated PressJune 21, 2014 

— Rescuers at Mount Rainier on Saturday suspended their search for a well-known, 70-year-old outdoors writer who hadn’t been seen since she separated from her hiking partner on Wednesday.

The National Park Service didn’t give an explanation and said it would release more information as it could.

Karen Sykes was reportedly working on a story when she and her partner encountered snow about 5,000 feet. Her partner stayed as she went on, with the idea that they’d reconvene, but she never turned up.

The partner, who made it safely back to the trailhead, reported her missing at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Six ground crews, including two dog teams, combed an expanded search area near the Owyhigh Lakes Trail on Rainier’s east side Saturday. Rescuers also searched by air.

Sykes had adequate survival gear to camp overnight in an emergency, said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold.

Her friends had hoped that searchers would find her safely sheltered.

Safety concerns for Sykes and search crews included 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.

Her disappearance came 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.

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