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Contact: Kevin Bacher, Public Information Officer, 360-569-6701
Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park are attempting to rescue a team of four climbers stranded at 13,500 feet below Liberty Cap, on the north side of Mount Rainier.
On Monday afternoon, June 3, 2019, Mount Rainier National Park’s Communications Center received a report of stranded climbers in need of assistance. The climbers were unable to continue as high winds blew away or destroyed their tent and other climbing equipment. The park helicopter conducted an aerial reconnaissance of the Liberty Ridge route at 4:00 p.m. Monday and found four climbers at the 13,500’ level signaling for help. Unfortunately, gusts to 30 mph made rescue impossible using short-haul techniques. A backup plan to drop equipment to the climbers was thwarted by the same conditions. Supplies were finally dropped 1500 feet below the climbers, where flying and weather conditions permitted, in hopes that they could descend to it.
Tuesday June 4, rangers again attempted to reach the climbers by air. Initial reconnaissance showed that they had descended about two hundred fifty feet to a more sheltered, but still precarious, position. They had not been able to reach the equipment left below them on the mountain. High winds—now blowing 40 mph—again prevented both rescue and delivery of supplies, though rangers were able to see the climbers. A third attempt was made about 1:00 p.m. when winds calmed briefly, but a layer of clouds moved in and hid the camp.
The park reached out to partners in the United States Army to request the assistance of a Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). At 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday a Chinook arrived with three Pararescue Jumpers out of the Air Force’s 304th Rescue Squadron in Portland, Oregon, and five members of the 2-135th General Support and Aviation Battalion out of JBLM. They attempted a reconnaissance on their way in, but the site was still too cloudy. By 5:30 p.m. the clouds had cleared enough for a second attempt, and although visibility was adequate, the wind—now a sustained 50 mph with downdrafts—was still too extreme to retrieve the climbers, even for the Chinook.
With inclement weather moving in Tuesday evening, the park’s helicopter retrieved rangers and gear stationed at Camps Muir and Schurman to help with the ongoing rescue. Today’s cloudy, rainy weather has prevented any attempt to reach the climbers by air. The military Chinook and the park’s exclusive-use helicopter were unable to attempt a flight at any point during the day due to cloud cover. Rangers are now preparing multiple rescue contingencies involving both air and ground operations as conditions permit. Unstable weather forecasted for the next several days is expected to continue to limit air operations. The safety of rescue personnel is our highest priority. To assist with keeping rescuers and the public safe, an emergency closure will be issued for the Liberty Ridge route effective at 4:00 p.m. June 5. This closure is expected to continue until rescue operations are complete (UPDATE: Liberty Ridge closure lifted 6/6/19).
The four climbers began their ascent from White River Campground on Friday, May 31. Their names are Yevgeniy Krasnitskiy of Portland, Oregon; Ruslan Khasbulatov, of Jersey City, New Jersey; Vasily Aushev, of New York, New York; and Kostya “Constantine” Toporov, of New York, New York. At least two are described by family as experienced climbers.
About 25 rangers from Mount Rainier National Park have participated in the rescue each day, in addition to resources from the military, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and the Washington State SAR Planning Unit.
The Liberty Ridge route is one of the more technical and dangerous routes on Mount Rainier, and was the same route where a climbing party was hit by rock fall resulting in one death and two injured climbers last week on May 31, 2019. It is attractive to expert climbers because of its spectacular wilderness scenery and the unique challenges it presents.
Climbing briefs for the four most climbed routes on Mount Rainier can be found on the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/climbing.htm. The briefs describe each route in detail and provide information about how to prepare for them. Climbers should check current conditions and weather forecasts, and be prepared to change or cancel their plans if necessary.
Updates for News Media will be posted, as they happen, on the park’s emergency phone message line at 360-569-2211, extension 9. Photos and videos for this incident may be found at https://www.flickr.com/gp/mountrainiernps/m7N001.
Park information, announcements, and the Mount Rainier webcams are posted on the park’s official website, nps.gov/mora. Get additional information and updates by joining the Mount Rainier community on Facebook: facebook.com/MountRainierNPS. Find out breaking news and road status updates through Mount Rainier’s Twitter feed: twitter.com/MountRainierNPS. Explore the park and behind-the-scenes operations with our videos on YouTube: youtube.com/MountRainierNPS. Share your own photos of Mount Rainier on Instagram or Flickr: instagram.com/MountRainierNPS or flickr.com/groups/MountRainierNPS
About Mount Rainier National Park
Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington State landscape. Annually nearly 2 million people visit the park to see the most glaciated peak in the contiguous USA and the ancient forests, subalpine wildflower meadows, and wildlife that live on mountain’s lower slopes. Visit us at nps.gov/mora, on Facebook facebook.com/MountRainierNPS, Twitter twitter.com/MountRainierNPS, Instagram instagram.com/MountRainierNPS, YouTube youtube.com/MountRainierNPS, or Flickr flickr.com/groups/MountRainierNPS.
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