Finding Kris Fowler: Analysis, Search Data and Timeline

Kris Fowler Missing Pacific Crest Trail Hiker

Keto & Ultralight Backpacking Gear & Technique

Finding Kris Search Journal

Kris Fowler Search Fundamentals and Timeline

10/12/2016 at 3:30 PM: Kris Fowler (34, Ohio, trail name Sherpa) was dropped off at White Pass, WA near mile 2292 of the Pacific Crest Trail. Kris was a PCT hiker returning to trail after a two day resupply in Packwood, WA. He hiked head first into a storm resulting from typhoon Songda that was being touted in a large media frenzy as the “biggest storm to hit Washington in 15 or 20 years”. Snowtel Weather Data

10/12/2016 at 10:00 AM: Kris’s phone’s last ping was recorded near White Pass.

10/22/2016 at 3:30 PM: Bear Hunters believe they see Kris near Blowout Mountain East of PCT mileage point (MP) 2354, 62 miles North of where he was dropped off at White Pass.

10/30/2016: Kris is announced as missing, it is reported on NBC News and the “Bring Kris Fowler/Sherpa Home” Facebook page is created.

Search and Rescue History

While Official Search and Rescue teams under the Yakima Sheriff’s Department did an initial search along the PCT from White Pass in addition to flyovers and road searches, after the initial search, they have focused primarily on the area surrounding Blowout Mountain, the location of an unconfirmed sighting by two Bear Hunter’s on 10/22/16. Blowout Mountain is East of PCT MP 2354 (62 miles North of White Pass / PCT MP 2292 where he was dropped off).

What Happened to Kris?

Kris Fowler Missing Pacific Crest Trail Hiker

Kris woke on 10/13/18 to freezing rain, in which I believe his clothing quickly wetted out (this is common in the PNW) and he succumbed to hypothermia within a 48 hour window. For this reason, I do not believe the Bear Hunter that took place 10 days later. The storm is the critical event, that is the crux that has been overlooked time and time again.

Given the severity of the storm, had Kris had made it to Highway 410 at Chinook Pass / PCT MP  2320, 28 miles from where he started at White Pass / PCT MP 2292, he would have pulled out and sought refuge in town very cold, wet and tired as all hikers were that bailed off trail during the storm. Since he did not do so, I believe he is off trail somewhere between White Pass / PCT MP 2292 and Chinook Pass / PCT MP  2320, a 28 mile section. How far off trail is the question.

For these reasons, I consider any “sightings” from 10/15/16 or later and any search areas North of Chinook Pass / PCT MP 2320 like Blowout Mountain to be bogus. More importantly, a singular event, the Blowout Mountain “sighting” has served to completely derail the search and has been extremely damaging to the search in its waste of resources and time. Kris did not survive the storm that ended everybody’s thru hike in one foul swoop only to have a random event cause his disappearance a few weeks later. The storm is the crux.

Designated Search Area and Map Explanation

This is the area that I believe needs to be searched. The original search topographic map was created by Doug Sanders, whom has been very helpful as a sounding board since 11/2016 when we first began dialogue regarding the search.

The search area consists of 28 mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail and it’s surrounding areas from White Pass at PCT MP 2992 to Chinook Pass at PCT MP 2020 with a primary focus on the first 20 miles North of White Pass.

This topographic map I’ve created is a simplified version of the one Doug created where I document all of my GPS tracks and the miles I’ve put in. Zoom in and play around with it.

Trace Search Tracks

Downloadable Topographic Map Set

In the almost two years since Kris disappeared all established trails have had traffic on them and and sometimes significant traffic in the form of hunters, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. If you want to find Kris, you’re going to need to go off trail. I’ve created the following map set to use when searching. They’re 11 x 17 and your best bet is to print them at FedEx on their 32 pound paper. Do NOT compress into 8.5 x 11.

These will cost you $22 to print the set. Cut off one of the margins and fold in half to fit in a gallon zip lock. If you can’t read these then don’t use them and please don’t off trail.

HEADS UP! This is a large file with some possibly weird vector characteristics that prevented me from being able to print using FedEx’s online printing system. When I emailed the file to them and picked up my order, I only received 7 pages. When they printed a second time, a similar issue happened. On the third try all pages were printed. The moral of the story is make sure all pages are present when picking up your order.

USGS 7.5' White Pass to Chinook Pass FSTopo 2016 7.5' White Pass to Chinook Pass

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