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Friday, December 6, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane hiker found dead at base of steep slope north of Cle Elum

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 4, 2019

Sean Mortensen, 19, from Spokane was found dead Sunday after he left his hiking partners north of Cle Elum on Friday and did not return, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office. (Courtesy)
Sean Mortensen, 19, from Spokane was found dead Sunday after he left his hiking partners north of Cle Elum on Friday and did not return, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office. (Courtesy)
By Emma Epperly and Jared Brown The Spokesman-Review

A 19-year-old hiker from Spokane was found dead Sunday after he left his hiking partners north of Cle Elum on Friday and did not return, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office.

Sean Mortensen’s body was located at the base of a steep slope formed by broken rock and debris. It appears he fell to his death in the Three Queens hiking area, according to a news release.

Mortensen had hiked to Spectacle Lake with two hiking partners, his brother Wesley, 16, and Rachel Tolley, 20, and left them Friday morning at about 9:45 a.m. for a hike northeast by himself to the Three Queens area, according to a news release. Tolley estimated the hike would have taken Mortensen about four hours to complete.

“Sean really wanted to climb one of the peaks that was surrounding us by the lake,” Tolley said.

Mortensen had climbed other peaks before and wanted the whole group to go, but Tolley was tired from the initial hike so she and Wesley Mortensen decided to stay behind, she said.

After Mortensen left, they sat and watched to see if they could spot him on the trail, Tolley said.

The pair saw a “pretty big rock slide” on the mountain and hoped that Mortensen wasn’t involved, she said.

Mortensen made it to the top of the mountain and sent a video of the view to friends on Snapchat, Tolley said.

His hiking partners began looking for Mortensen after he did not return by about 5 p.m. and hiked out to the trail head for help Saturday morning when they still hadn’t found him, according to a news release.

Kittitas County Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue personnel arrived at the area just before 1 p.m., according to a news release. Naval Air Station Whidbey provided a helicopter to assist with the search along the rugged terrain at 8 p.m. but had to stop until morning because of darkness.

Mortensen’s body was found Sunday morning when the search resumed. He fell approximately 150 feet before coming to rest at the base of the slope, according to a news release.

“He passed away in the rock slide that Wesley and I saw, and they know that he passed away instantly,” Tolley said.

Mortensen graduated from University High School in 2018 and took time off before pursuing college plans, Tolley said.

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on East 40th Court in Spokane Valley.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019 to include the estimated time it would have taken Mortensen to complete the hike.

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