WEST GLACIER – A 19-year-old hiker who died last summer in Glacier National Park was not killed in a fall, as was previously believed, but likely drowned or succumbed to hypothermia, officials said.
Jakson Kreiser, 19, of Hudsonville, Mich., and a seasonal employee in the kitchen at Lake McDonald Lodge, went missing July 28, 2012, after attempting a mostly off-trail hike known as the Floral Park Traverse, a route that begins at Logan Pass and ends at the Sperry Chalet trailhead, near Lake McDonald Lodge.
His body was discovered by hikers on Sept. 13, six weeks after he went missing. It was submerged in about 4 inches of water in a small waterfall drainage running between two cliff bands southwest of Hidden Lake.
Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said the water would have been several feet deep and running fast in July, and at a temperature of just above freezing. Curry theorized that Kreiser slipped while trying to cross the drainage, which was likely 20 feet wide at the time.
Prior to the autopsy, officials believed the cause of Kreiser’s death likely was a fall, as his body was recovered in treacherous country, but his death was later established to have been caused by exposure.
“He did not die of a traumatic injury,” Curry said. “The cause of death was listed as exposure, which means it was either hypothermia or a submerged cold-water drowning. Our supposition is that he could have tripped on a rock while crossing. He may have hit his head, but there was no significant vertical fall. He would not have lasted very long in that water.“
An intensive search in the days after Kreiser’s disappearance focused on the area between Hidden Lake, some five miles south of Logan Pass, and Avalanche Lake to the west. The search included aerial monitoring by plane, but the water would have obscured Kreiser’s body from search parties.
Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death in Glacier National Park, and hikers are encouraged to travel in groups.
Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 531-9745 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.