Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jeff Graves of Minnesota - lost

Jeff Graves, a 40 yo Minnesotan on day hike, has been lost near Mount Ranier for 3 days. We have to assume he went off trail, he was hiking alone.

I'll update this post as we learn more.

Update 6/20/07: Sad news.
A body discovered by a search helicopter in Mount Rainier National Park was identified Tuesday afternoon as that of missing hiker Jeff Graves, according to a park spokesman.

Kevin Bacher, the spokesman, said rescue teams confirmed the Minneapolis man's identity after an extensive search launched Saturday when Graves failed to return from a day hike. Park officials are investigating and could not speculate about how Graves died.

Graves, 47, was hiking the 7.2-mile round-trip Eagle Peak Trail on 5,958-foot Eagle Peak, which rises above the Nisqually River near Longmire...

... A park service search helicopter spotted what appeared to be a human body in red clothing at the base of a cliff on Eagle Peak about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Graves was wearing a red Gore-Tex parka at the time he went missing, Bacher said.

The helicopter was redeployed, and a ground team moved into position to reach an area Bacher described as "remote and difficult to get to." The team, which carried ropes to rappel to the body's location, helped confirm searchers' fears.

Rescue efforts included 50 people, vehicles and German shepherds.

Graves was wearing fleece and his Gore-Tex jacket and carried a daypack.

The Eagle Peak Trail, park officials say, is a strenuous day hike, gaining 3,000 feet of elevation in 3.6 miles, beginning at Longmire. The trail, which is popular with hikers, is snow-covered above 5,100 feet, officials said.

It appeared to searchers that Graves left the trail during his descent, lost his footing and fell about 200 feet in a heavily forested area. He landed at the base of a slope about 650 feet from the trail, Bacher said.

Searchers covered rugged, heavily forested wilderness with many cliffs and ravines. Saturday and Sunday nights were cool, with rain, fog and temperatures in the mid-30s.

Elizabeth Lunney, executive director of the Washington Trails Association, said Tuesday extensive volunteer efforts are needed at Mount Rainier National Park to repair trail damage from last fall's storms. She said that while trail crews did not have an updated assessment for Eagle Peak Trail, the association previously had scheduled four days of work on the trail from July 5 to July 8 to repair storm damage...
A solo hike in the wilderness is dangerous. Going off trail is dangerous. Doing both is very dangerous. I've done both intentionally of course, just about everyone who's done any wilderness travel has. Jeff might have decided to take a look off trail, or, more likely, he might have lost the trail during the descent then slipped and fallen. That's very easy to do, especially since trails were damaged by storms.

Even though there was a massive search effort, with dogs and helicopters, and even though his route and time were well known, and even though he was wearing high visibility clothing, it still took four days to find his body. The wilderness is vast beyond the imagination of the city dweller. In the case of my brother Brian there were none of those advantages -- if his body is ever found it will be by chance encounter sometime in the next thousand years.

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