Students at U of L react to their professor's hiking death in Wy - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Students at U of L react to their professor's hiking death in Wyoming

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U of L professor Carol Hanchette U of L professor Carol Hanchette

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville students and staff are mourning the death of a professor found dead hiking in Wyoming. 

Flowers are now outside Carol Hanchette's U of L office, where she worked as an Associate Professor of Geography and Geosciences.

"We like to call her our mama of the department," said Kaitlyn Smith, a U of L senior.

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office in Wyoming said Hanchette, who friends said was an experienced hiker, died from hypothermia. The sheriff said she and a 67-year-old man from Billings, Montana, went to a wilderness area on Friday and camped. The sheriff said Hanchette and the man had taught together before and were friends.

While hiking Saturday night, they became separated when the man decided to head back to camp on his own. Police said she wanted to stay and continue to hike. Authorities said the man got lost and never reached the camp and stayed on his own Sunday night. He eventually found his way out late Monday afternoon and met people who contacted police.

The sheriff said Hanchette eventually made her way to the campsite and left a note for her friend saying she went for help, and she took her backpack and sleeping bag. The sheriff doesn't know exactly when she came back to the campsite and said a snowstorm started Saturday night.

"It's so shocking, because she's always so prepared," Smith said. "And she never knows not what to do. So we're all just very mystified of what happened."Crews searched and found her body late Tuesday morning on a jeep trail. The sheriff said she had a small leg injury. But ultimately, Hanchette died of hypothermia. Authorities said the investigation is over.

Associate professor Maggie Walker said she and her colleagues are shocked. 

"She hiked for many years, was very experienced," Walker said. "I know she was a member of a local hiking group and would go around the country on adventures, and that's one of the things that was so surprising given that she was an experienced hiker.

"We're all devastated, Carol was a fundamental person to the department. She grew the graduate program. She had a great vision for what geography can be and do. She influenced me as my mentor. She has tons of students who are heavily impacted by the loss of her."

The avid hiker was known as an exceptional professor, but it's her life lessons that have really stuck with her students. 

"I adored her, and I really looked up to her, and I hope someday I can be the woman that she was," Smith said.

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