The body of a woman recovered from Mount Rainier last Saturday has been positively identified as Karen Sykes, a Seattle woman who disappeared during a hike June 18.
The Pierce County medical examiner made the announcement Monday after an autopsy that attributed her death to hypothermia.
Exact circumstances of Sykes’ death are unknown, but she apparently fell while hiking the Owyhigh Lakes Trail alone. Her body was found by searchers in steep, rocky and hard-to-access terrain in the general area where she was reported missing.
Sykes was reported to Mount Rainier National Park officials as overdue at 10:30 p.m. on June 18 by a hiking companion who said Sykes went ahead without him when they reached snow at an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet at 3 p.m. that day on the Owyhigh trail.
On June 19, ground and air searches focused on the length of the eight-mile trail, officials said. Air searches were scheduled for when weather improved. Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said the search area was in steep, rugged terrain with snow cover starting between the 4,500 and 6,500-foot levels.
Sykes, a freelance writer who wrote about hiking in books and for publications, is described as a knowledgeable hiker and had adequate survival gear to be on the mountain overnight in the event of an emergency.
Wold said safety concerns for Sykes and ground crews included snow bridges, tree wells and steep, wet and slippery terrain.
A ground searcher was injured on the first day of searching for Sykes when he fell through a snow bridge. He was airlifted to safety.
The German Shepherd Search and Rescue of Washington State, King County Explorers, and Everett, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue personnel are actively involved in the search efforts. An MD-530 helicopter from Northwest Helicopters in Olympia, Washington was used in support of the incident.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, an injured climber was airlifted off Double Peak near Eastside Trail on June 19 following a search in response to a spot locator beacon. The climber suffered injuries to his leg that prevented him from walking out under his own power, park officials said.