Missing hiker found dead at base of cliff

A photo of Kate Heuther with her dog, Heuther's usual hiking companion.
A photo of Kate Heuther with her dog, Heuther's usual hiking companion.

STEVENSON, Wash. –  It has been more than nine days since Kate Huether went missing after going on a late-afternoon hike. On Saturday, her body was found at the base of an 800-foot cliff in Southwest Washington's rugged Columbia Gorge terrain.

She was headed to Table Mountain, according to a text message she sent to a friend March 4. With its 15-mile round-trip ascent, Table Mountain is "perhaps one of the most difficult to climb on the Washington side," reports PortlandHikers.org.

The site warns of narrow trails, and unsure footing.

This is sad news for the many people - driving and flying in from across the country - who refused to give up after the official search was called off on Wednesday. The search was tough, however, and did not bode well for Heuther's survival.

The search was called off from inclement weather on at least one occasion. One searcher said she hiked through two inches of snow in her trek.

"An extra couple of legs and eyes and a couple sets of eyes cover a little more territory may just make a difference," said one searcher.

Indeed, that's exactly what happened.

Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox released information Saturday evening that a father and son, out on a 4-wheeler ride, found the hiker's body.

"They had parked their 4 wheelers and had hiked some distance before finding Ms. Huether wedged behind rocks at the base of an over-800-foot cliff," reports a press release from the Skamania County Sheriff's Office. "Skamania County deputies have arrived and confirmed it was Ms. Huether."

The Skamania County Sheriff's Office statement says that – because of the extremely hazardous conditions, darkness, snow, and almost vertical area where she is located – the recovery of her body will begin Sunday morning.

The 24 year old's Volkswagon Jetta was found in the North Bonneville trail head parking lot, and a credit card receipt with her name on it was found near Table Mountain.

With 360-degree views from Table Mountain's summit, this viewpoint gives hikers one of the best views of the original Bridge of the Gods. It's an ancient land bridge – now superseded by a man-made bridge crossing between Washington and Oregon over the Columbia River – said to be revered in Native American legend.

- KATU Reporter Joe Raineri contributed to this report.