During the last week of May, four climbers and two guides were presumed dead when they went missing during a summit of Mt Rainier, just south of Seattle, Washington. Three bodies, assumed to be part of the six climbers, have been spotted by park staff members during a helicopter flight last week, in the area where the group of climbers went missing. Park spokeswoman, Patti Wold stated that the officials still have to determine exactly how to retrieve the bodies without endangering the rescuers involved. “Right now we’re considering options for discovery. The location where they are isn’t safe to put anyone in,” said Wold.
The missing group attempted to climb to the top of Mt Rainier via the Liberty Ridge climbing route last May, one of the more difficult and advanced routes of the park. They planned to complete the summit within five days, with one day to climb back down. The climbers had to meet certain prerequisites in order to participate, and their biographies were reviewed by a team of three people. The group consisted of experienced climbers who had traveled from various cities across the world in order to participate in this summit.
The bodies were spotted below Willis Wall at the top of Carbon Glacier on Mt Rainier, which is a highly unstable location. Due to the warm weather of the summer months, the possibility of falling ice and rock has increased, making it difficult for park rangers to retrieve and identify the bodies. The warm weather also causes the amount of crevasses in the glacier below to increase, making this location one of the most dangerous areas of the park.
With the three bodies that have been spotted recently, officials believe that the climbers fell about 3,300 feet. In an interview with USA Today, Wold stated that the chances of someone surviving a fall from that height were slim. During the initial search, gear was found buried under snow at the top of Carbon Glacier, at 9,500 feet.
Among the group of six were Alpine Ascents International guides, Eitan Green and Matthew Hegeman; an American Express finance manager from New York, Erik Britton Kolb, a Vice President and managing director at Intel who had traveled from Singapore, Uday Marty, John Mullally, a mountain climber based out of Seattle as well as Mark Mahaney from St Paul, Minnesota.
Although three of the climbers’ may have been found, without access to the site, there is no way to identify if the bodies were part of the group of missing climbers, and there are three more that remain missing. Given the perils of this area of Mt Rainier, the search team is limited to an aerial view.
Mt Rainier reaches 14,410 feet above sea level, attracting climbers of all levels. According to park statistics, out of 10,800 people who attempted to climb Mount Rainier last year, only 129 people used the Liberty Ridge climbing route. The majority of the climbers used two other more popular routes. Wold stated that the helicopter flight that spotted the three bodies were part of the ongoing, restricted search for the missing climbers of Mount Rainier. As a result of unstable conditions, the Liberty Ridge route is currently not being climbed.
By Monica de Lartigue