A body found Sunday on the east side of Mount Rainier may be that of a 64-year-old Tacoma hiker who disappeared more than a year ago, a spokesman for Mount Rainier National Park said Tuesday.
But the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office said it will need several days to identify the remains, found by park visitors exploring Sunday near Frying Pan Glacier. .
Park spokesman Kevin Bacher says the location and other identifying factors are consistent with a Tacoma hiker who went missing on the Wonderland Trail on July 12, 2014. Park officials have notified the family.
Edwin Birch, 64 at the time of his disappearance, was hiking a 19-mile section of the Wonderland Trail with his son. They’d set a goal of hiking the 93-mile Wonderland Trail in segments and had finished their first section a week earlier. Birch was hiking from Box Canyon to White River and his son was hiking in the opposite direction.
They rendezvoused at Indian Bar before continuing on. The son retrieved the car at the Box Canyon trailhead, but his father was not waiting when he returned to White River at about midnight. When Birch had not arrived by 1:30 a.m., the son notified rangers.
Park officials spent a week searching for Birch.
The area where Birch went missing, near Pan Handle Gap, is the highest point on the Wonderland Trail at 6,800 feet above sea level. Patches of snow can cover the route year round.
Bacher says the recovery team was on foot when they retrieved the remains. Because the remains are so old, they will take longer to identify, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office.