Search for Overdue Hiker Strengthens In Glacier National Park's Backcountry
Contact: Norma Sosa, 406 888-7895
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – A search and rescue operation has entered the fourth day for a hiker who has been reported overdue in a planned hike that was to take him through nearly 100 miles of rugged terrain at the heart of Glacier National Park.
Yi-Jien Hwa, a 27-year-old Malaysian man, was reported by his family to be overdue on August 18th, the last day of a weeklong hiking plan he had filed with the Park. His family told Park officials on August 19th that a pre-arranged date for contacting them at the end of the hike had passed with no word from him and that they had not heard from him since before the start of his hike.
An initial search was conducted the following day, and on Thursday a broader search of the Park began. Patrick Suddath, Incident Commander, strengthened Glacier’s effort today, sending out 60 searchers and two helicopters.
The team includes hikers and mountaineers who will hike valleys, ridges, cliffs, and forests and scale glaciers in the Floral Park area, where Mr. Hwa planned to begin. The area is south of Logan Pass and west of the Continental Divide. A close search of the area was prevented by weather conditions earlier in the week.
Suddath’s team includes searchers who are experienced in northwestern Montana terrain and in Glacier’s backcountry. Joining in the effort are representatives of the US Border Patrol, the US Forest Service, and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department, which has also assisted in planning the search for Mr. Hwa.
The Incident Commander said he and his staff determined the areas of today’s search based on the hike as Mr. Hwa outlined it in applying for his backcountry permit and on conversations about his plans with family members and friends. Suddath said items found in Mr. Hwa’s car also helped him and his staff to draw conclusions about Mr. Hwa’s plans that might aid in the search. Mr. Hwa left behind food, items of clothing, and equipment that he might have planned to collect between segments of his hike.
“We are using all the clues we can gather to use in finding Mr. Hwa,” Suddath said. “We remain very concerned about him, knowing the challenges he faced from the terrain, the weather, the wildlife, and other factors at the very beginning of his hike, and we are searching that area intensively.”
Suddath described the terrain being searched today as difficult and challenging, even for experienced mountaineers. Searchers today were prepared with strong cautions about freshly fallen snow, deceptive ice and snow bridges, and treacherous footing on wet rocks.
Suddath said he and his staff had been in frequent touch with Mr. Hwa’s family members and that they were being advised of all efforts to find him.
“We are keeping them informed about the search every step of the way,” Suddath said. “We are providing information as well as assistance as they let us know their needs and concerns. We consider that to be of the utmost importance at this difficult time.”
- NPS -