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Writer’s friends mourn as body found on Mount Rainier

A Pierce County medical examiner will confirm whether the body found is that of Karen Sykes of Seattle.

Lola Kemp via Associated Press

A Pierce County medical examiner will confirm whether the body found is that of Karen Sykes of Seattle.

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. — Friends are mourning a well-known outdoors writer and wilderness inspiration who had been missing for three days on Mount Rainier after searchers said they recovered a body.

Officials at Mount Rainier National Park said it will be up to the Pierce County medical examiner to determine whether the woman found Saturday afternoon was 70-year-old Karen Sykes of Seattle.

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Sykes separated from her hiking partner Wednesday in the Owyhigh Lakes area east of the summit.

Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said Sunday the body was found off-trail, about halfway down a steep hillside above Boundary Creek.

She didn’t know whether it was apparent that the woman had fallen or what caused the death. It remains under investigation.

Park officials had said earlier in the day that the search had been suspended.

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.

Friends said she found sanctuary in the wilderness.

‘‘For a lot of local hikers, it’s an extreme loss,’’ said Greg Johnston, who edited a ‘‘Trail of the Week’’ column she wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. ‘‘For decades, she showed us the way, and now that’s gone.’’

At the time of the hike, she 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 meet up later, but she never turned up.

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

Seven 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.

Her friends had hoped that searchers would find her safely sheltered. Wold said she had adequate survival gear to camp overnight in an emergency.

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