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Friend says he is told body found on Mount Rainier is missing writer

SEATTLE – A friend of well-known outdoors writer Karen Sykes said Sunday he received a call from the National Park Service confirming that the body found Saturday on the east side of Mount Rainier is that of Sykes.

Official confirmation of the identify of a body isn’t expected until today from the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, but Don Geyer said he was one of a handful of people who received a call.

Sykes, 70, went missing on Wednesday while she and her boyfriend, Bob Morthorst, were hiking in the Owyhigh Lakes area at Mount Rainier. When the pair encountered snow at about 5,000 feet, he stopped, but she went on, with plans for the two to meet up later.

When Sykes didn’t return, Morthorst hiked down and reported her missing.

Rescuers searched on the ground and in the air, and found a body Saturday, off-trail near the eastern branch of Boundary Creek in rough, steep terrain. The body was taken to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The news saddened the many people who, like Geyer, had hiked with Sykes, met her through events at The Mountaineers club or knew her through her many hiking stories for online publications and newspapers.

Geyer met her nearly 10 years ago when she was the first person to review his book of photographs of Mount Rainier. “She was just somebody who couldn’t stay home,” he said. “If she wasn’t hiking, she was out running.”

Sykes’ stamina was amazing, he said. “You’d think she was 23 or something.”

Sykes had a number of hiking companions, including Michael Fagin, a weather forecaster.

Fagin said he had hiked with Sykes for about 10 years.

Sykes loved wildflowers as well as photography, and would rattle off the names of every one she saw along the trail, he said.

“She’d give me a lecture every time we went hiking,” Fagin said. “I called her the flower child because her knowledge of flowers was phenomenal.”

She also wrote poetry, he said, and loved her many cats.

Other hikers would often recognize her on the trail, he added, stopping to ask, “Aren’t you Karen Sykes?”

And as soon as she finished a hike, she’d start talking about two or three others she was planning.