Friday, June 18, 2004

Adventuring News

ASHFORD, Wash. - Rangers in a helicopter spotted the body of a climber at the bottom of a deep basin on Mount Rainier, a second climber was missing and two others have asked for help.

Rangers saw a body sprawled motionless and face-down in the snow Thursday on the Carbon Glacier on the north side of the 14,411-foot peak. The body was in a large basin, essentially at the bottom of a 4,000-foot-tall glacier wall of rock and ice. There was a lot of icefall debris around the body, along with two backpacks and climbing rope. Rangers were unable to reach the body, but planned to fly to the site Friday to check again and search for the missing man.

Rangers had been searching for two overdue climbers from Missoula, Montana. They had been expected back Monday from a climb up the dangerous Liberty Ridge route. The men, both in their 20s, were described as experienced. Their names were not immediately released. The men had begun their climb last Friday. Heavy snowfall and winds exceeding 100 mph blasted the mountain all weekend, destroying tents at some high camps, and the avalanche danger was extreme. The Missoula climbers were reported overdue Tuesday but rangers were not unduly concerned at first because many climbing teams had been slowed by the weather, and no other climbers reported seeing anything amiss.

A second pair of unidentified climbers called for assistance Thursday in descending from the 10,670-foot level on the Liberty Ridge route, saying they were unhurt but "in over their heads." Because of the effort needed for the other climbers, Rangers do not plan to send a rescue team to the second pair unless their condition worsens. Supplies will be lowered to them, but a helicopter cannot land where they are. The two have food and fuel.

More than 11,000 people try to climb the mountain annually, including about 200 via Liberty Ridge, one of the most difficult routes. Jon Cahill, 40, of Auburn, died June 3 after falling 200 feet on Liberty Ridge. Peter Cooley, 39, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, died May 17, two days after he tumbled down a steep icy slope of the ridge and hit his head on a rock spur. An average of three people a year have died in summit attempts since 1990. The deaths of Cahill and Cooley were the 90th and 91st since 1887, when record-keeping began.

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