SEATTLE (AP) — A 70-year-old hiker who died of hypothermia in rugged terrain in Mount Rainier National Park over the weekend was experienced, prepared and knew the mountain well after having written dozens of stories about treks through the area.
She did not have other injuries and her death was an accident, the Pierce County medical examiner's office said Monday.
While not certain about the circumstances around her death, those who knew Karen Sykes said they believe her death was something that could happen to anyone no matter how experienced.
"The mountains are big. There's a lot going on. She was extremely experienced but experience has nothing to do with any of it," said Kim Brown, who has hiked with Sykes.
"She was very careful, very cautious," Brown said of Sykes, who was prominent in the Northwest U.S. hiking community for her trail reviews and photographs and her book on hiking western Washington state. "It's just something that happens out in the mountains. Everybody who goes in the mountains knows this can happen. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't go out, you need to be aware of it."
Sykes was reported missing late Wednesday when she failed to meet up with her boyfriend as planned during a day hike in the east side of the mountain.
Park officials suspended three-day search efforts on Saturday when they discovered her body.
Mary Kay Nelson, executive director of Visit Rainier, an organization that promotes tourism at the mountain, said Sykes was researching a story that she likely would have submitted to the website.
She said Sykes had written about more than 100 hikes in the Rainier area, and "was always eager to find new places to go, hidden hikes that weren't well-traveled."
Since 2000, 18 hikers have died in Mount Rainier National Park, including from falls, drowning and heart attacks, according to park statistics.