Zach Krull

Search expands for hiker missing from Staircase Campground

HOODSPORT — Some 70 searchers, tracking dogs and helicopters combed the hills around Lake Cushman on Saturday, seeking signs of a 20-year-old hiker who has been missing for nearly a week.

Zach Krull, a freshman at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, was scheduled to return from a camping trip last Sunday evening or Monday morning.

His family reported him missing to the Mason County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, said Lt. Jason Dracobly of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

Krull was camping alone at Staircase in Olympic National Park, which is adjacent to Olympic National Forest. His tent was found at the north end of Lake Cushman.

“We don’t know where he went from there,” Dracobly said Saturday. “He’s right close to everything right there.”

Several trails spin out from the Staircase Campground. The hiker’s father, Stewart Krull, found his son’s research history on his computer, Dracobly said.

“His son was looking at trails all around the Cushman area,” the lieutenant said, adding that the family, which has been at the Staircase command post since Tuesday, “have been helpful.” He said the family lives on the East Coast.

Asked if searchers had found any sign of the missing hiker, Dracobly said: “We found signs, but I can’t say that it’s of him.”

Rescuers believe Krull took his backpack and snowshoes when he left the campground.

“He seemed to be pretty well-outfitted,” Dracobly said.

But the weather last week was wet, with 1 to 2 inches of rain daily turning to snow at the higher elevations.

That led to searchers curtailing the search early Wednesday because of avalanche danger.

“The team could hear avalanches crashing around them, so they decided to pull back for their own safety,” Dracobly said.

The search resumed Thursday and has continued since, but it wasn’t until Saturday that rescuers got a break in the weather and were able to expand the search, Dracobly said.

“Since this started, we’ve been battling Mother Nature,” he said.

Rain and snow have muddied the scent for the dogs, he said.

Helicopters from Whidbey Island and King or Snohomish County have searched the area, he said.

Searchers on the ground are from Mason, Pierce and Thurston counties, along with Olympic Mountain Rescue, Explorer Search and Rescue, and a volunteer group out of Tacoma, Dracobly said.

An Olympic National Park ranger also is involved; park resources are strained by having two searches going on at the same time, Dracobly noted, referring to a search for Jacob Gray of Bellevue underway near the Sol Duc River.

Anyone with information about the missing hiker is asked to call the Mason County Sheriff’s Office at 360-426-4441.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]peninsuladailynews.com.

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