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Contact: Kevin Bacher, 360-569-6567
A climber stranded at the top of “Gibraltar Rock” on the south side of Mount Rainier was hoisted to safety by a joint Army Reserve / Air Force team flying a Chinook helicopter out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord this afternoon. The rescue occurred almost 24 hours after the climber separated from his party near the summit.
On Wednesday, May 31, a party of three nearly reached Mount Rainier’s summit via the “Fuhrer Finger” climbing route (named for Hans and Heine Fuhrer, who pioneered the route in 1920) when a member of the party became ill and told the other members of his party he could not go on. The party began to traverse to a standard route down, when the ill climber made a decision to unrope and head directly down mountain. The other two climbers tried to convince their partner to stay with them, but without luck. The pair called 911 to alert rangers about the odd behavior of their teammate. The two members of the group descended to Camp Muir successfully while the third, Dennis Endong Cui, 27, of Surrey, British Columbia, attempted to descend in the vicinity of Gibraltar Rock. Around 11 p.m. that night, guides at Camp Muir observed Cui signaling with his headlamp from the near-vertical face of Gibraltar Rock, at an elevation of about 12,400 feet, and communicated this to park rangers. Rangers attempted to correspond with Cui by text message advising him where he needed to go to find safety. At 5:20 a.m. this morning Cui responded to the texts with a request for rescue, explaining that he was “freezing” and had no overnight gear.
Initial attempts to reach Cui’s location, by three members of the Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. guide service, were thwarted by poor weather and low visibility. Two teams of three park climbing rangers ascended to Camp Muir during the morning to stage for a ground assault. Conditions improved throughout the day, however, and eventually rangers were able to spot Cui from below and dispatch the park’s exclusive use A-Star B3 helicopter to scout the area. Moderately high winds made approaching Cui’s location too difficult for the small helicopter, and so the team from JBLM was engaged to reach the site with the larger Chinook helicopter. Cui was lifted to safety on a hoist under difficult conditions and flown off the mountain at 5:30 p.m.The Chinook helicopter was flown by the F Company 2-135th while parajumpers from the 304th Rescue Squadron out of Portland, Oregon rode the hoist to pick off the climber.
Cui, an experienced mountaineer and a constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was flown to Madigan Hospital. He was severely hypothermic, but suffered no other injuries.