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Missing 21-year-old snowshoer hiking in B.C.'s North Shore Mountains found dead

A 21-year-old woman who went missing Thursday after she went snowshoeing on a popular trail in B.C.'s North Shore Mountains has been found dead.

Squamish RCMP said Friday that a North Shore Rescue crew located the woman at about 10:40 a.m. PT in a steep drainage area on the east side of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, below St. Mark's Summit.

The crew flew the woman by helicopter back to their base, where she was pronounced dead.

Rescue personnel identified the woman only by her first name, Nikki. 

"Our thoughts are with the woman's family and friends, as well with all the responders and search teams to the St. Mark's area last night and today," Sgt. Sascha Banks said in a statement. 

The woman, who RCMP said was from Ontario, did not return from her solo trip to St. Mark's Summit in Cypress Provincial Park on Thursday.

Crews were called to look for her around 5 p.m. Thursday, but despite an all-night search with two helicopters and night-vision equipment, she was not found overnight. 

North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said fresh search teams returned to the area at first light on Friday to look for any signs of the woman or possible tracks off the trail.

North Shore Rescue teams searching for the woman at St. Mark's Summit above West Vancouver, B.C., on Jan. 14. (North Shore Rescue/Facebook)

Danks said the woman was alone on the hike. She called her boyfriend in Toronto when she reached St. Mark's Summit, then phoned him again on her way down.

"She ended up calling him back shortly after and saying that she was lost and in distress, and then the call dropped," Danks said.

The St. Mark's Summit hike, part of the Howe Sound Crest Trail, typically takes several hours round-trip and leads hikers to a picturesque view over Howe Sound.

Crews believe the woman was out for a day trip and was likely unprepared to spend the night on the mountain. There was a "significant" amount of snow, and windy, rainy weather has been wiping out searchers' tracks.

North Shore Rescue posted a photo of the gear believed to have been used by the woman during her hike to St. Mark's Summit on Thursday. (North Shore Rescue/Facebook)

Danks said crews at first did not have any indication the woman was on the mountain, aside from a photo that she took and her registered rental car still parked in the Cypress Mountain parking lot.

Her cellphone was most recently pinged at 3:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Based on the ping, Danks said crews believed the woman was on the east side of the peak.

RCMP urge anyone who is in need of help while exploring remote areas to call 911. 

"As well, before you leave, please: research your area, take all the equipment you need, know your skill level, follow weather patterns, know snow conditions, and have a trip plan," Banks said.

Squamish RCMP will work the BC Coroners Service to investigate the woman's death. 

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