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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, October 01, 2013 11:45 pm

2 hikers plucked from snowy Pacific Crest Trail

By GENE JOHNSONAssociated Press

A sheriff's officer says a helicopter has picked up two of four hikers for whom authorities were searching in remote parts of southwest Washington.

Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox said Tuesday night a helicopter had rescued Matt Margiotta and Kyla Arnold, who called for help Monday after snow obscured their route on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Deep snow forced ground searchers to turn back earlier in the day.

In a statement, Cox said the two hikers were being flown to Portland, Ore. He says they apparently didn't need any medical care.

A search is expected to continue Wednesday for the other two hikers missing in separate areas of southwest Washington.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Rescuers were searching for four hikers Tuesday in remote parts of southwest Washington, including three people who walked all the way from Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail only to run into early season snowfall on their trek to the Canadian border.

Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox says two of the Pacific Crest Trail hikers, Matt Margiotta and Kyla Arnold, wisely called for help Monday after snow obscured their route.

Six ground searchers had obtained their GPS location and tried to reach the pair Tuesday, but deep snow forced them to turn back, Cox said. Instead, crews were trying to take advantage of a break in the weather to reach them by air.

Another Pacific Crest Trail hiker, Alejandra Wilson, was reported overdue 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 the other pair, or about 20 miles farther north. Searchers from Lewis County were headed south on the trail, hoping to run into her.

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.

Meanwhile more than three dozen rescuers continued looking for Kristopher Zitzewitz, 31, of Portland, who became separated from his partner in the Big Lava Beds area of Gifford Pinchot National Forest on Saturday.

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 had 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.


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