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Authorities search for Seattle outdoors writer, 'guru of trails' missing on Mount Rainier

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SEATTLE - Crews searched Mount Rainier National Park on Friday for a prominent hiker and outdoors writer who was reported missing late Wednesday while she researched a story.

Karen Sykes, a knowledgeable hiker from Seattle, had adequate survival gear to camp overnight in an emergency, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.

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 authored a book about hikes in western Washington.

She was working on a story at the time, Wold said.

Her disappearance comes weeks after six climbers are believed to have fallen to their deaths while attempting to climb a challenging route to the summit of the 14,410-foot peak southeast of Seattle.

Sykes hiked ahead of her partner Wednesday when the two reached snow level at an elevation of about 5,000 feet on the east side of the mountain, Wold said. She was reported overdue several hours later.

Lola Kemp, a close friend who planned to hike with Sykes this weekend, said in an email Friday that she was anxious but still hopeful that searchers will find Sykes, safely sheltered somewhere.

"She is the guru of trails," said Kemp, adding that Sykes hikes at least twice a week and has a background in climbing and scrambling. "I find it difficult to imagine that she would get lost. I think it's more likely she's injured and waiting, perhaps impatiently, to be rescued."

Greg Johnston, a former outdoors writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, said Sykes was an avid, strong hiker who knew the mountain extremely well.

"She's the last person anyone would expect to get lost, particularly on Mount Rainier," said Johnston, who recruited Sykes to write a weekly hiking feature for that newspaper, which ran for more than a decade. "If anybody can survive it, it's her. She's really tough and really savvy."

Search teams were scouring steep, rugged terrain in the Owyhigh Lakes area for a second day Friday. They are focused along the length of the 8-mile Owyhigh Lakes Trail. Teams may also search by air Friday if weather permits.

Safety concerns for Sykes and search crews include snow bridges, tree wells and steep, wet, slippery terrain, Wold said. On Thursday, a searcher was hurt when he punched through a snow bridge and was airlifted out of the search area.

In a separate search, an injured climber was airlifted Thursday off Double Peak after crews responded to a spot-locator beacon.

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