Two Climbers Lucky To Survive Ordeal On Mount Rainier

A pair of climbers who found themselves in white-out conditions on Mount Rainier are fortunate to have survived their ordeal, which included falling into a crevasse.

The two unidentified climbers were heading to Camp Muir halfway up the mountain on Monday when they fell off the Muir Snowfield and slid roughly 75 feet.

The initial report of the accident was received by a 911 operator and relayed to the park at 5:45 p.m. Climbing rangers began making their way to Camp Muir to stage for early morning search operations. Weather conditions on the mountain were adverse, with sustained 70 mph winds gusting up to 90 mph and temperatures down to -5 Celsius. A helicopter was placed on standby, for morning operations.

“They chose to go up to Camp Muir in a white out, and ended up walking off the edge of the Muir Snowfield, and tumbling onto the Cowlitz Glacier, into a crevasse. This is a mistake made by both novice and expert climbers,” stated Glenn Kessler, Incident Commander.

The two climbers were forced to spend Monday night on the mountain under extreme conditions. “They did a great job of taking care of each other and of keeping warm and alive,” said David Gottlieb, a Mount Rainier climbing ranger. He went on to say “they displayed a lot of courage and character in staying alive last night.”

At 6:20 a.m. Tuesday one of the climbers made contact with the park on her cell phone. Questioning by park officials provided critical information that lead to a quick rescue. She indicated that they were in the vicinity of Camp Muir, having traveled over the Muir Snowfield and past Anvil Rock prior to falling.

Tuesday morning a team of three rangers began a ground search, while a team of two staged for air search and possible extrication on an MD 530 from Northwest Helicopters. The ground team was able to locate the missing climbers.

Comments

These folks were very lucky! The deceptively easy lower slopes of 'The Mountain' can quickly turn serious in whiteouts and hurricane winds. Hats off to the many rescuers who responded so efficiently! Cell signals are not reliable on the south side, with Success Cleaver blocking most of the Puget lowland stations; they probably were heard in Yakima or eastern WA. There used to be a weathered plywood sign on Panorama Point (about 1/3 of the way) with a message that began: "Hikers, the way to Muir is long and hard. Many have died on the slopes above...". Amazingly, over sixty people are still missing on Mount Rainier: http://www.seattlepi.com/ghostsofrainier/rain.shtml