The news that solo hiker Jennifer Coleman was found dead near Glacier Park’s Logan Pass after being reported missing two days earlier comes as a shock and reminds all of us who love the park’s pristine beauty that in spite of visitor overcrowding, the beautiful mountainn world is a a dangerous place.
I made it a policy to never climb alone in the park and, other than two-to-three mile strolls around Many Glacier Hotel, never to hike alone. Too much can go wrong, from illness, to falls, to bears and mountain lions. Even a sprained ankle can put a person down on a seldom-travelled trail with no way to get help where there’s no cellphone service.
Coleman’s death is under investigation. Even the precise location hasn’t been released, though there’s speculation she was hiking along the Highline Trail or the Dragon’s Tail. The highline is filled with hikers, yet if one fell when nobody else was nearby, they might land in an out-of-view spot. The Dragon’s Tail has fewer visitors and this makes hiking alone there more dangerous.
As for Coleman, all we know is that she was near Logan Pass and was apparently hiking or climbing alone. The peace of the mountains and the lure of wondrous views is addictive and hard to resist. So, I cannot fault her solo hiking. I might have done it even though I knew I shouldn’t. I’ve climbed a lot of mountains and would probably assume I was imune to the potential dangers.
Matches, maps, bear spray, water, food, and a hiking partner are always the safer way to proceed. We know this, but we don’t always do this.
Malcolm R. Campbell has written fiction and nonfiction about Glacier National Park. including the novel “Mountain Song.”