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Washington Hiker Karen Sykes Died of Hypothermia on Mount Rainier

Image: Karen Sykes
This undated photo provided by Lola Kemp shows Karen Sykes. Crews searched Mount Rainier National Park on June 20 for Sykes, an outdoors writer, was reported missing late Wednesday while she researched a story. Courtesy Lola Kemp via AP

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A 70-year-old writer and avid hiker whose body was found in Washington's Mount Rainier National Park over the weekend succumbed to exposure to the cold, officials said yesterday.

Karen Sykes died specifically of hypothermia, Karen Barr, an investigator with the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office told NBC News.

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Barr said she couldn't provide further details, like how long Sykes had likely been alive in the cold before she died.

During the period that Sykes was missing, temperatures were as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the park, according to the Weather Underground.

The death has been ruled an accident.

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Image: Karen Sykes, Lola Kemp
This undated image provided by Lola Kemp shows missing hiker Karen Sykes, right, with her friend Lola Kemp. Crews searched Mount Rainier National Park on June 20 for Sykes, a prominent hiker and outdoors writer who was reported missing late Wednesday. She was working on a story at the time, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.Courtesy Lola Kemp via AP

Sykes first went missing on Wednesday when she left her partner behind to explore a snowy part of the Owyhigh Lakes trail about 5,000 feet up and never came back.

Rescue teams on the ground and in helicopters scoured the area around the trail for days until a ground crew discovered the body just before 3 p.m. Saturday.

Sykes was well known in the Northwest hiking community for her trail reviews, photographs and her book on hiking western Washington.

"She always said that if her life was going to end she would want it to end in the mountains — she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” her daughter, Annette Shirey told NBC News over the weekend. "She could bring out the beauty she saw and share it with the world."

— Hasani Gittens

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