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Contact: Patti Wold, 360-569-6563
This morning, January 19, a team of ten is searching a portion of the intended route of the two overdue parties from Paradise up the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir, where they will overnight. As of 10 a.m. the team was moving toward the Muir Snowfield from Panorama Point which is located at the top of Paradise Meadows and is now well above Panorama Point.
The team is made up of highly skilled mountaineers who are familiar with the route and in mitigating associated avalanche exposure. They are at the highest level of fitness as required for this strenuous assignment. The team is composed of Mount Rainier climbing rangers and park staff, and members of Everett Mountain Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, International Mountain Guides and Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated. A helicopter is on standby at Joint Base Lewis-McChord awaiting favorable flight conditions, although freezing rain is precluding flight operations today.
"The weather is the greatest challenge to search efforts at this time," stated incident commander Kelly Bush. There is currently a winter storm watch and a moderate level avalanche warning for the area. The field team reports the snow has consolidated compared to conditions earlier in the week and they are making good progress. Conditions are adequate for continued travel. The search will be immediately suspended if conditions become unsafe.
There are two teams of overdue parties currently on the mountain. A party of two planning to winter camp on the Muir Snowfield over the weekend was due out on Sunday, January 15.A second party of two climbers on a summit attempt via the Disappointment Cleaver route was due back Monday, January 16th. Although both parties are equipped for winter camping, concern for their wellbeing grows each day due to their dwindling food and supplies. Due to weather conditions it is expected that they are waiting out the weather before attempting to descend to Paradise.Visitors to the upper mountain are advised to stop moving, dig in and wait for better weather during severe weather and white out conditions.
The road to Paradise is closed at the park entrance today. For more information on weather conditions visit the park weather webpage http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/weather.htm. For a look at current conditions at Paradise visit the Webcam webpage http://www.nps.gov/mora/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm. Note that the Camp Muir webcam is not maintained in winter.