Search-and-rescue officials planned to renew their efforts Wednesday to locate a man and a woman missing in separate, remote parts of southwest Washington after a helicopter rescued two other hikers from waist-deep snow.
Hikers Matt Margiotta and Kyla Arnold were hoisted aboard a Coast Guard helicopter Tuesday night from the snowy Pacific Crest Trail north of Trout Lake, Wash., Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox said. They were flown to Portland, Ore., and apparently required no medical aid, he said.
They had walked all the way from Mexico on the trail only to run into early season snowfall in their attempt to reach the Canadian border. They called for help Monday after snow obscured their route.
Ground searchers who had the pair's GPS location got within three-quarters of a mile on Tuesday before the snow and fading daylight forced them to turn back. The helicopter from Astoria, Ore., took advantage of a weather window to reach them.
On Wednesday, rescue officials hoped to locate Alejandrea Wilson, a third hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail, and Kristopher Zitzewitz, who was last seen in the Big Lava Beds area of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Wilson was reported overdue on Monday after she failed to check in with her father, Dane Wilson, of Portland, Ore., as expected. She was believed to be about a day's hike ahead of Margiotta and Arnold's location, or about 20 miles farther north.
"We'll keep trying to ping her phone, get a location on her," Cox said, adding he hoped the weather would allow an air search.
Her father reported that he last heard from her Friday as she was leaving Trout Lake, a tiny hamlet south of Mount Adams, for White Pass, Cox said.
More than 40 ground searchers and four dog teams searched Tuesday for Zitzewitz, 31, of Portland, who became separated from his partner in the Big Lava Beds on Saturday.
Cox said his office requested that many ground searchers again for Wednesday, as well as ATVs and air support.
Weather in that area was rainy, with temperatures dipping into the low 40s at night, he said.
Margiotta, Arnold and Wilson all kept online journals of their travels. Arnold last updated hers on Friday and described having recently encountered Wilson.
Arnold also wrote of having nearly run out of food after storms forced her and Margiotta to huddle under a tarp for four days - long delaying their arrival in Trout Lake.
"We finally made it to Trout Lake today and another huge storm is rolling in," Arnold wrote. "Everyone says we can't make it because of the weather situation, and to be honest it's quite terrifying, but I can't fathom coming this far and giving up."
Snow has been falling in the Washington mountains since the weekend, which was likely the first snow to fall on Pacific Crest Trail hikers, Cox said. Searchers encountered two other hikers on the trail and persuaded them to turn around.
"The problem with all the snow on the ground is you can't even tell where the trail is," Cox said. "Some folks try to push on and wind up getting lost."
The Pacific Crest Trail runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to the Canadian border.
First published October 2 2013, 3:54 AM