“Heart Broken” for Teacher Who Died in Sierra Nevada Hiking Accident

Valencia High School Teacher Pat Hadley died on Thursday while hiking in the Sequoia National Forest

By Jason Kandel
|  Saturday, Aug 24, 2013  |  Updated 1:53 PM PDT
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Friends mourned on Saturday the loss of a longtime Southern California high school teacher and running coach who died after falling 150 feet off a mountain ridge in the Sierra Nevada.

Pat Hadley died on Thursday in a fall on a rugged hillside in the Inyo National Forest, coroner's officials said.

Tributes began to spring up online for the popular teacher who students called “Coach Hadley.”

“She is the mold that God made for teachers to follow,” wrote “Rose” in an online tribute page. “My heart is broken by Coach Hadley's passing.”

Jim Bell, the principal at Valencia High School in Placentia, touted her accomplishments on the track and in the classroom in a statement posted on the school’s website.

“Pat tragically lost her life doing what she loved,” he said. “She will be missed and we ask you for your thoughts and prayers for her family.”

Hadley died while taking part in a series of day hikes on California mountain trails with about 20 others when she disappeared about 2 p.m. Thursday, said Jeff Mullenhour, a deputy coroner’s investigator in Inyo County.

Her body was found about two hours later. It was an accident, Mullenhour said. An autopsy set for Sunday would determine how she died.

The hiking community set up an online tribute for Hadley on Friday.

She was climbing alone on a ridge in Baxter Pass on Day 7 of the 10-day “Sierra Challenge,” a series of day-hikes to 10 peaks, wrote Bob Burd, a moderator on the site summitpost.org.

Fellow hikers found her lifeless body about 150 feet below the ridge, Burd wrote.

”All of us are devastated by this tragic loss,” wrote Burd, adding that the rest of the Challenge was canceled out of respect for Hadley’s family. “Our prayers and thoughts go out to her husband, family and a wide community of friends that will undoubtedly be greatly affected.”

The Wisconsin native taught ceramics and coached the boys cross country and boys and girls track teams in her nearly 20-year career at Valencia.

Hadley’s storied athletic career included national titles in mountain biking and a stint in the first unofficial female World Cup Soccer tournament, Bell said.

"Now cracks a noble heart," wrote "MoapaPk" in the online tribute, referring to a line in Shakespeare's "Hamlet." "Good night sweet princess: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

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