Search and rescue teams on Sept. 7 recovered the body of a 34-year-old Virginia woman who was found dead in steep, rocky terrain along the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, a difficult feat that required assistance from a Two Bear Air helicopter as well as ground crews.
Jennifer Coleman’s body was located by searchers below the Grinnell Glacier Overlook on the east side of the Continental Divide, but windy conditions initially stymied the recovery operations. In addition to the aerial operation, a ground crew hiked into the mountainous area to prepare the woman’s remains for recovery.
Although a death certificate stating the exact cause and manner of Coleman’s death still hadn’t been completed by the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office as of Sept. 13, when the Beacon went to print, an official who assisted with the recovery effort said the woman likely died from trauma due to a fall.
The Grinnell Glacier Overlook is most commonly accessed by hikers along a steep spur trail that ascends from the Highline Trail, just east of Granite Park Chalet. The trail leads to a perch atop the famed Garden Wall, revealing a bird’s eye view of Grinnell and Salamander glaciers. The precipitous overlook straddles a narrow ridge along the Garden Wall’s arête, separating Granite Park from the Grinnell Glacier drainage, as well as the east and west sides of the Continental Divide.
The search for Coleman, who is from Richmond, Va., began on Sept. 1 after she failed to check out of the West Glacier KOA as scheduled. Believing she’d gone hiking alone in the Logan Pass area on either Aug. 30 or Aug. 31, park officials located her vehicle at Logan Pass Visitor Center. The search continued through Sept. 5, with as many as 50 personnel joining the effort.
In a news release, Glacier National Park officials expressed thanks to members of the public who relayed information to a tip line, which officials say played a key role in coordinating a faster, more focused search. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Department, Glacier County Sheriff’s Department, Two Bear Air Rescue, and the Flathead National Forest assisted with the search efforts.
Coleman’s parents, Hal and Sharon, also expressed their appreciation of the community support since arriving in the area to bring their daughter’s remains, as well as her two dogs, back to Virginia.
“People have been a blessing to us,” Hal Coleman wrote in a statement. “We are thankful and appreciative to the bottom of our hears. No words to describe the grief.”
To honor their daughter’s life, and in response to an outpouring of community support, as well as inquiries about how to honor her life, the Coleman family has set up an online memorial fundraising portal, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the park’s nonprofit fundraising partner.
“Hal and Sharon know that their daughter left this earth doing what she loved — hiking in a beautiful place that gave her peace and happiness,” according to a description on the donation page at spotfund.com. “They are truly humbled by the tireless efforts provided by Glacier Park’s rangers, some of the nation’s best search and rescue teams, and everyone else involved in Jenn’s search and recovery.”
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