Search Underway in Glacier for Overdue Backpacker

By Beacon Staff

WEST GLACIER – A search was under way Thursday in Glacier National Park for a 27-year-old man who was three days overdue from a lengthy backcountry hike.

Yi-Jien Hwa, a resident of Kentucky and Malaysia, was last seen at the St. Mary Visitor Center on Aug. 11, the first day of his planned hike, park officials said. His hike was to end Monday at Kintla Lake.

Hwa was believed to be hiking alone, park officials said. His car was found in the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot.

Ranger Patrick Suddath said the backcountry permit Hwa filed with the park showed his path was to include the Floral Park area, Gunsight Pass trail, Highline trail and Goat Haunt.

Park officials checked with other hikers in those areas Wednesday, but they had not seen Hwa.

Early Thursday, 20 to 25 National Park Service and U.S. Border Patrol employees — including four dog handlers — began searching areas at the beginning of Hwa’s itinerary.

“The National Park Service is very concerned about the safety and condition of Mr. Hwa, and we are doing everything possible to locate him,” Suddath said. “We are exploring every possible lead, and we are ruling nothing out.”

Poor weather and low visibility prevented aerial searches Thursday. However, the search is expected to intensify in the coming days as conditions improve, Suddath said.

Hwa’s family notified park officials Tuesday night that he had not contacted them as agreed. The family said they had not heard from him since the first day of the hike.

Hwa is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs about 170 pounds. He is believed to be carrying a blue Kelty backpack and trekking poles, along with other equipment, and might be wearing dark-colored clothing.

Park officials ask anyone with information to call Glacier National Park at 406-888-7801.