With help from helicopter crews and dog teams, the search for Cian McLaughlin in Grand Teton National Park is ongoing, providing an inkling of hope for friends and family to cling to.
One tip placed the missing hiker as last seen in the Delta Lake area, but late Wednesday park officials said another tip was going to refocus search operations Thursday to Garnet Canyon. A local climbing guide reported seeing a man matching McLaughlin's description as hiking up the Garnet Canyon trail, above the Garnet Canyon and Surprise Lake trail junction at around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 8. The guide described a solo hiker who had shoulder-length hair and was wearing round glasses, a white shirt, shorts and a hat. The guide also reported the man as having tattoos on his arms and carrying a bottle of water, a park press release said.
Park rangers found McLaughlin’s vehicle at the Lupine Meadows trailhead on Sunday, the day after he was reported missing to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and three days after he missed a shift at work.
McLaughlin’s mother, Gráinne, and her partner flew to Jackson from Ireland on Tuesday, according to family friend Iva Pocock, who set up a GoFundMe account to help with travel and lodging expenses. Other friends have considered driving to Jackson to help with the search, but they are having difficulty finding places to stay due to the lack of housing options.
“If anyone in the area has a cabin or accommodation leads, please contact Kelsie Fallon,” friend Melanie Hayes Reynolds wrote on Facebook.
Wednesday's search included more than 50 park staff scouring the backcountry, along with six search and rescue dog teams and a helicopter.
The park has not requested the aid of Teton County Search and Rescue, Sheriff Matt Carr said.
The majority of search personnel are working in “high consequence” areas where the terrain is quite treacherous, park spokesman C.J. Adams said.
Fallon also posted on Facebook that the family has met with the incident commander and rangers who remained optimistic.
“They have no set end date for search as of right now. All equipment is accounted for except his backpack and GoPro,” Fallon wrote. (UPDATE: Park officials said Thursday that the backpack has been located, so is not with the missing hiker. — Ed.)
Earlier reports from other hikers indicated that McLaughlin did not have a backpack and was traveling lightly.
The last ping of the hiker’s cellphone was at 3:30 p.m. on June 8. He was reportedly seen at 2:30 p.m. that day, about a half-mile from Lupine Meadows Trailhead.
McLaughlin has worked as a bartender at The Bistro in downtown Jackson for about three months, and it was one of his fellow bartenders who initially expressed concern regarding his absence, one of the restaurant’s managers said.
The hiker’s former roommate, Gokhan Sigircik, said he saw McLaughlin working at the bar June 7, the day before he went missing, but the two didn’t talk beyond a simple hello.
Sigircik said McLaughlin is outgoing and has lots of buddies, even though he moved to the valley in Dec. 2019 and went home to Ireland shortly after the pandemic hit.
He was surprised McLaughlin set out alone, as the Irishman almost always went on adventures with friends. His first winter here, McLaughlin worked as a Jackson Hole Mountain Resort snowboard instructor and as a bartender at Teton Village’s Continuum hotel.
“I’m just trying to stay hopeful. He’s gonna be hungry and cold probably but found soon,” said one of the hiker’s friends, Michael Kern, who is hoping to fly to Jackson this week to help search.
Kern said his friend came up to see him in Seattle back in April and the two made plans to go on a Yellowstone National Park adventure in July. Now he’s praying that trip is still possible.
“He’s an experienced hiker and outdoorsy guy,” Kern said of his friend. “To hear that he went out with no gear is really weird. … It kinda seems out of character for Cian.”
Dublin friend Clare Kavanagh wrote to the Jackson Hole Daily to express her gratitude to the search and rescue teams: “It really is true to say that people all over Ireland are praying for Cian... we remain hopeful of his safe return.”
— This article has been updated from the print version of the Jackson Hole Daily to include new information that came in after press time and to remove a specific location of a cellphone ping, which park officials say may not be precise. — Eds.