Karen Sykes: Search Suspended For Outdoors Writer Missing During Mount Rainier Hike

The search for missing hiker Karen Sykes was suspended on Saturday, five days after the 70-year-old outdoors writer disappeared on Mount Rainier.

Sykes was separated from her hiking partner on Wednesday while she was working on a story. Sykes and the partner ran into snow at about 5,000 feet on the mountain, and Karen Sykes decided to try to press on while the partner stayed behind. The pair came up with a plan to meet up again, but Sykes never showed.

The hiking partner reported Karen Sykes missing at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and the National Park Service launched a search for her that included six ground teams, two of them with dogs. Other search crews joined by air, focusing on Owyhigh Lakes Trail.

Karen Sykes was known as an experienced hiker who reportedly had the proper gear to survive if she encountered an emergency, but conditions on Mount Rainier can be difficult. The terrain includes snow bridges, tree wells, and sharp, slippery cliffs. On Thursday one of the members of the search crew punched through a snow bridge and was injured, needing an airlift out of the area.

Sykes has gained a reputation in the Pacific Northwest for her hiking abilities and the numerous hiking stories she has written. Sykes also published a book about hiking in western Washington.

In 2004, Sykes wrote about the same area she was hiking this week while going missing. At the time, she noted some of the challenges of the route:

At about 2.5 miles, I hit the first snow patch, not a good sign. Usually that initial patch is an indication of more snow to come and route-finding can become more of a challenge. In the trees, the snow from last winter is dirty and covered with pine needles, icy on the surface but soft and treacherous under the crust as snow melts out from underneath. Look at it this way: Post-holing is good exercise.

The area has already seen another hiking tragedy this year. Six climbers on a peak southwest of Seattle were believed to have fallen to their deaths while on particularly treacherous stretch.

The National Park Service did not say why the search for missing hiker Karen Sykes was called off on Saturday, or when it would begin again.

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