MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON – One climber has likely died from hypothermia and exposure on Mount Rainier after he and his climbing partner were caught in a winter storm over the weekend, a spokeswoman with Mount Rainier National Park said.
A Chinook helicopter crew and other rescue teams were working Monday to reach the 58-year-old man from Norway. He and a 41-year-old Canadian woman apparently took shelter at about 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) when a fierce winter storm hit the mountain Saturday evening, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.
The woman descended the mountain alone on Sunday, and climbers who saw her escorted her to Camp Muir, a base camp at 10,188 feet (3,105 meters) on the peak’s south slope. She’s doing OK and will be taken to a local hospital, Wold said.
“It’s hard to see how he would have survived,” Wold said, noting that temperatures were in the single digits (from minus-17 to minus-13 Celsius) with lots of wind and blowing snow.
Park rescue crews began looking for the climbers on Saturday night after other climbers reported seeing overnight gear at Camp Muir but no one returning to the equipment as the storm raged. The pair had set off Thursday to reach the summit of the 14,410-foot (4,392-meter) glaciated peak with plans to begin their climb to the top on Saturday morning.
Park officials began preparing for a search operation Saturday night, but extreme weather conditions prevented rescuers from mobilizing until Sunday. A Chinook helicopter crew tried to approach the mountain on Sunday, but it was unable to land on the mountain because of the storm.
In a separate incident, a 26-year-old man from Lacey was snowshoeing alone over the weekend and was also caught in the storm. He’s doing OK but has some frostbite, Wold said. He set off a distress signal from his locator beacon Saturday night. but he managed to reach Camp Muir on his own on Sunday.
Rescuers were planning to take the snowshoer and the female climber to a local hospital by air if possible, Wold said.