Birch Bay woman dies in hiking accident on popular Sauk Mountain

The Bellingham Herald

A Birch Bay woman died when she fell from the switchbacks on the popular Sauk Mountain trail in Skagit County.

Karen Vaden, 69, was hiking with a group of friends around 2 p.m. Tuesday. They were two-thirds of the way up the 4 ¼-mile trail, in a series of switchbacks, when she slipped and fell 70 feet down a steep slope on the mountainside, said Skagit County Sheriff’s Chief of Patrol Chad Clark.

A Navy helicopter was called to hoist Vaden from the mountain, but she died before she could be flown to a hospital. She died from multiple blunt force injuries, said Hayley Thompson, the Skagit County coroner.

What caused Vaden to fall remains unclear, but the death appears to be a tragic accident, according to the sheriff’s office. Thompson confirmed the woman’s identity and the cause of death around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Once the snow melts on Sauk Mountain, a distinctive 5,500-foot peak east of Concrete, it’s one of the most popular hikes in the region, with panoramic views of the North Cascades and the valley carved out by the Skagit River.

“But as in any hiking up mountains there’s inherent danger” of slipping on rocks, or snow, Clark said. Recent reports from the mountain say that as of this week, only a few snowfields remained near the summit.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb