COPPER CENTER (KTUU) - Search and rescue personnel have located a body in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve they believe to be 34-year-old hiker Nick Larsen.
Larsen was last seen on August 5th in the town of McCarthy.
The body was found in the Nizina River and the cause of death is "pending determination by the State Medical Examiner Office,” said Jamie Hart, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.
“The experienced hiker planned to backpack alone in the backcountry. A backpack was found on the Nizina River on Monday, August 28th and helped to narrow the search area,” said Hart in a press release.
Hart said investigators initially had a large area to search before the backpack was located by rafters. After it was found, the NPS could narrow its search to a 15-mile stretch of the Nizina River.
Unlike Denali National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias does not require backcountry permits or a backcountry itinerary. Instead, the Park Service provides park visitors with a voluntary backcountry itinerary.
Hart says that filling out a backcountry itinerary will not automatically trigger a search if a party is overdue.
“It is critical that the party provides a responsible third party with their itinerary,” said Hart.
Larsen did not file a backcountry itinerary regarding his intended route, which complicated search and rescue efforts.
The NPS also provides a form, called ‘Know Before You Go,’ to backcountry visitors at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
The form details the challenges of backcountry travel, steps for risk management and rescue, along with the principles of leave no trace.
“It is your responsibility to use conservative decision-making skills in the backcountry. Search and rescue operations are expensive and place rescuers in high risk situations. Even under the best conditions, it will take hours or days for rescuers to reach you,” read the ‘Know Before You Go’ form.
“The National Park Service offers sincere condolences to the Larsen family and friends,” said Hart’s press release. “The agency also wishes to thank the many individuals that helped provide information and those that provided assistance in the search.”