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Contact: Patti Wold, PIO, 360-569-6701
Monday, March 28, 2016 — Operations are underway to extract two patients from Camp Muir, at 10,000’ on Mount Rainier’s south slope. In separate incidents a climbing party of two and a snowshoer were unexpectedly caught out overnight in a winter storm Saturday. The patients, the snowshoer and one member of the climbing party are in stable condition at Camp Muir. The second climber, a 58 year old male from Norway, is believed to be near Gibraltar Ledges.The first operational objective is to assess weather and snow conditions prior to putting crews in the field. The patients will be extracted from Camp Muir by air if possible, or by ground. Weather permitting, air operations will conduct reconnaissance for the second member of the climbing team. A Chinook CH47 out of JBLM with two climbing rangers and an investigator on board attempted to approach the mountain on Sunday, but the weather was too extreme to reach Camp Muir. The mission will be attempted again today under improving conditions.
The climbing party of two left Paradise on Thursday, March 24, for the summit via Gibraltar Ledges. Their permit indicates that they overnighted at Camp Muiron Friday night and were to begin their climb on Saturday morning, March 26. Private parties at Camp Muir reported overnight gear left there all day when no one returned to use it Saturday night. The park initiated search operations Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon one member of the climbing party was seen descending from the Gibraltar Ledges route to Camp Muir. Several individuals assisted the climber back to the public shelter at Camp Muir. The climber, a 41-year old female Canadian, is reported to be alert and ambulatory.In a second, unrelated, incident a spot locator beacon began signaling on the Muir Snowfield Saturday night, and continued through the night. The beacon belongs to a solo snowshoer, a 26-year old male from Lacey, Washington, attempting to reach Camp Muir to overnight Saturday. The snowshoer eventually made it to Camp Muir on Sunday. He is reported to be alert and ambulatory with some frostbite.
A winter storm hit the mountain Saturday night, at approximately 6:00 pm. Both parties were unexpectedly caught out overnight in blowing snow with temperatures in the single digits. Search crews encountered the same conditions Sunday while ascending to Camp Muir.
Weather is expected to improve which will assist search operations. A drier northerly flow will allow the top part of the mountain to begin clearing early today with a good chance of partly cloudy to mostly sunny conditions beginning Monday afternoon. Avalanche conditions are considerable. Members of Seattle, Olympic, Tacoma, and Everett mountain rescues, volunteer Nordic Patrol, US Army Reserve B Company of the 1-214th Air Battalion and Northwest Helicopters are assisting. Rainier Guest Services provided dinner for the operation on Sunday.