After a week of searching made dangerous and complicated by high winds, snowfall, and dangerous avalanche conditions, crews at Mount Rainier National Park are expected to begin scaling back their efforts to locate two overdue parties on the mountain.
While searchers had relatively good conditions Monday to search for the four overdue individuals, another storm forecast for Tuesday was expected to ground the searchers once again.
Thirty-seven-year-old Mark Vucich, of San Diego, and 30-year-old Michelle Trojanowski, of Atlanta, Georgia, had planned to winter camp on the Muir Snowfield on the weekend of January 14-15, with a return on Sunday, Jan. 15, according to park officials.
A second party of two climbers, Sork (Erik) Yang, 52, of Springfield, Oregon, and Seol Hee Jin, 52, from Korea, on a summit attempt via the Disappointment Cleaver route was due back Monday, January 16th, officials added.
On Monday, three aircraft conducted a major air search of the upper mountain, including Ingraham, Cowlitz, and Paradise glaciers, the Muir Snowfield, and the summit. Air resources include an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, a contract Bell 206 helicopter from Northwest Helicopters, and a Washington State Patrol Cessna fixed wing with forward looking infrared.
Seven ground teams searched the Sluiskin Falls area, Lower Paradise Glacier, Upper Stevens Canyon above Lake Louise, and Mazama Ridge. Denali and Mount Rainier climbing rangers and staff, guides from Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated and International Mountain Guides, and Olympic, Tacoma, Snohomish, Yakima, Everett and Seattle Mountain Rescue have been contributing to search operations.
No sign of the two parties has been found over the seven day search period. Park officials say they will begin to scale down the operation into an extended limited continuous search. In hopes that the parties were able to walk out, searches of remote areas of the park will be conducted when weather conditions permit.