Search for Missing Hiker Ends with Body Discovery
Thursday, August 26, 2004
(Updated 08/28/2004)
 
The search for a missing hiker on Mount Hood ended sadly with the discovery of her body Thursday afternoon.
 
Four members of Portland Mountain Rescue joined searchers from other organizations in an attempt to find the 27-year-old Portland woman, who was reported overdue from a multi-day trek along the Timberline Trail.  A PMR rescuer found the hiker's body in the bed of the Sandy River less than three miles from her destination.
 
The subject began her trek on Saturday from the Ramona Falls trailhead on the west side of Mount Hood and hiked clockwise around the mountain.
 
Evidently, she had completed 37 miles (60 km) of the 41-mile (66 km) trail when she reached the crossing of the Sandy River, just Southeast of Ramona Falls.
 
Visual evidence from Thursday's search showed that the river had been swollen to its banks during the week, so rescuers surmise that the hiker would have faced a treacherous crossing in order to continue back to the trailhead.  In fact, the river was still knee deep on Thursday, though the rain was less intense during the search than it had been earlier in the week.
  River Bed
PMR's Ted Wheeler waits along
the Sandy River for the National
Guard helicopter that would evacuate the hiker's body
 
Blackhawk
The 1042nd National Guard
Blackhawk helicopter lands on
the bed of the Sandy River
 
Since the subject had been hiking alone, there is no way to know what actually happened, but it appears that she attempted to cross the raging river and was swept away to her death.  Her body was found, with backpack still attached, about 600 yards (0.55 km) downstream from the crossing point.
 
Late Thursday afternoon, a Oregon Army National Guard 1042nd Medical Company Blackhawk helicopter delivered the Clackamas County Medical Examiner to the scene and, along with help from PMR rescuers Ted Wheeler and Iain Morris, recovered the subject's body.
 
The Medical Examiner will attempt to determine the time and cause of death.
 
The Timberline Trail encircles Mount Hood and varies from 2,825 feet (861 meters) above sea level at its lowest point to 7,350 (2,240 meters) feet at its highest level.  During fair summer weather, it usually takes three-to-four days to complete, depending upon the condition of the hiker.
 
It is not yet known when the accident occurred, but the hiker was supposed to return to the Ramona Falls trailhead on Tuesday - a four-day trek around the mountain.  Family members reported her missing on Wednesday afternoon and the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office called a large scale search for Thursday morning after initial efforts to locate her were unsuccessful.
 
PMR suggests that hikers do not cross deep or rushing rivers, but if a crossing is unavoidable, hikers should at least unclip their backpacks.  Packs can easily drag a person under water, especially when the river current is strong.  The use of trekking poles, for stability, is also encouraged.