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Neal Peckens, Jason Hiser missing, Glacier National Park search continues

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KALISPELL, Mont. (AP, WJLA) - Rescue teams at Glacier National Park searched in wintry conditions and rugged terrain Sunday for two East Coast hikers reported missing by family members.

Park officials said 50 searchers were looking for 32-year-old Neal Peckens of Virginia and 32-year-old Jason Hiser of Richmond. The pair has been missing for three days.

They were supposed to fly home Friday after three days of back country hiking. When they didn't make their flight, their families reported them missing.

Peckens’s mother says her son grew up in Boonsboro, but now resides in Herndon, Virginia.

She says Peckens met Hiser at Virginia Tech University while both were studying to become veterinarians.

Peckens works across Maryland and Virginia as a cardiovascular animal surgeon, but spends most of his time at his company’s office in Vienna, his mother said. He is married with a daughter who just turned one-year-old.

Pecken's mother said his wife and father flew to Montana, where the search continues. 

Weather was the biggest challenge facing searchers, who have found 18 inches of snow on the trail at higher elevations and five-foot drifts in some areas, spokeswoman Denise Germann said.

"The area they are working in is very steep and exposed," she said. "It's right along the Continental Divide, and it's very windy."

More rain and possibly snow in higher areas was expected on Sunday, she said. A helicopter dropped off some searchers inside the park early Sunday but Germann said low clouds moved in, preventing aerial searches.

The two were reported missing Friday after failing to catch a flight home from Montana. Their vehicle was found late Friday, and the search started Saturday.

Germann said it's not clear if they were prepared for cold weather, or if they have much experience in the back-country. Searchers believe the two were hiking and not mountain climbing.

"We believe they are still in the park," she said. "We don't know what clothing or gear they've got."

Peckens' two best friends say they are worried but optimistic.

“It sounds like weather has been a big effort in the search factor out there, trying to get a handle on where these guys are, exactly,” says Ryan Jones. “There's always concern in these moments.”

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