Body of 21-year-old hiker missing for 3 years found deep in Oregon wilderness

In July 2016, 21-year-old Riley Zickel set out for an overnight hike in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness east of Salem, Oregon — and vanished, The Oregonian reports.

On Tuesday, Zickel’s father flew to Oregon from California to be at the trailhead when rescue teams brought his son’s body out of the wilderness after a three-year wait, KOIN reported.

Climbers had reported finding a body in avalanche-prone glacial terrain on Mount Washington three weeks ago, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office wrote on Facebook.

The sheriff’s search-and-rescue team worked with Corvallis Mountain Rescue, the Civil Air Patrol, and the U.S. Forest Service on the recovery, according to the post.

Zickel, a California resident, was reported missing July 30, 2016, after he failed to return from an overnight hike in the wilderness area in the central Cascade Range, The Statesman-Journal reported. He had planned to visit friends in Seattle afterward.

But a seven-day search involving more than 340 people poring over more than 350 square miles in the Willamette National Forest failed to find Zickel, the sheriff’s office wrote.

While the search encompassed the area where Zickel’s body was later found, the difficult terrain would have made it difficult to spot him from the air, The Statesman-Journal reported.

The Mount Jefferson Wilderness spans 104,523 acres, including 10,497-foot Mount Jefferson, whose slopes are home to five glaciers, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Part of the Pacific Crest Trail runs through the wilderness.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.