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Coast guardsman’s body found near summit of Alaska mountain

Searchers found the body Tuesday of a Coast Guardsman who went missing while hiking.

The Portland Press Herald reported that searchers found the body of Derek Winn Russell after they found skid marks in the ice and his ice ax near the summit of Mount Barometer. His body was reportedly found 1,000 feet below his ice ax.

The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports Russell of Hollis Center, Maine, was last seen 10 a.m. Saturday as he hiked from the Coast Guard base to trails on the nearby mountain.

Alaska state troopers led the search with assistance from the Coast Guard and Kodiak Island Search and Rescue, which has expertise in mountain rescues.

Russell was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro. His rank was not immediately released.

Trooper Boyd Branch said Russell was reported missing at 6 p.m. Sunday. Searchers had mobilized by 9:30 that night.

Steve Wielebski, president of the search and rescue group, said a four-person team searched on the ground from midnight to 3:30 a.m. Monday.

The summit is at 2,452 feet. Searchers climbed to the 1,200-foot level and split up to search typical slide spots.

Wielebski said he found a blue, medium-size parka on the trail to the summit but could not say whether it belonged to Russell or another hiker.

The foul weather prevented an aerial search until Monday morning.

Searchers used heat-sensing cameras but spotted only deer and mountain goats, Wielebski said.

"They're going to go up and do another search with the chopper, but right now they can't even see," he said Monday afternoon.

Mount Barometer is a popular climb and in summer the trail to the summit can be attempted by casual hikers. In winter, ice and snow can make hiking treacherous and strong winds create bone-chilling temperatures.

"Barometer, it's a rough hike in summer and it’s even rougher in winter," Branch said. "You need some technical gear to complete it safely."

Branch said he hoped Russell had completed his hike and had simply not called his roommates.

"To be honest with you, I hope that's the case," he said. "I hope that he's safe."

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