Safety concerns for Sykes and search crews include snow bridges, tree wells and steep, wet, slippery terrain, Wold said. A searcher was hurt Thursday when he punched through a snow bridge and was airlifted out of the search area.
Sykes is well-known in the Northwest hiking community and has written numerous hiking stories for online publications and newspapers. She is also a photographer and has written a book about hikes in western Washington.
She was working on a story when she disappeared, Wold said.
Her disappearance comes weeks after six climbers are believed to have fallen to their deaths while attempting to climb a challenging route to the summit of the 14,410-foot peak southeast of Seattle.
Sykes hiked ahead of her partner Wednesday when the two reached snow level at an elevation of about 5,000 feet on the east side of the mountain, Wold said. The Seattle Times said she was reported overdue by her partner, who made it down the mountain, several hours later.
Close friend Lola Kemp had planned to hike with Sykes this weekend.
"She is the guru of trails," Kemp said Friday in an email, adding that Sykes hiked at least twice a week and has a background in climbing and scrambling. "I find it difficult to imagine that she would get lost. I think it's more likely she's injured and waiting, perhaps impatiently, to be rescued."
Greg Johnston, a former outdoors writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, described Sykes as an avid, strong hiker who knew the mountain extremely well.
"She's the last person anyone would expect to get lost, particularly on Mount Rainier," said Johnston, who recruited Sykes to write a weekly hiking feature for that newspaper, which ran for more than a decade. "If anybody can survive it, it's her. She's really tough and really savvy."