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Contact: Patti Wold, Public Information Officer, 360-569-6701
June 14, 2011, 15:00 - Park climbing rangers initiated a search for a seriously ill climber on Liberty Ridge at 13,600' Monday evening. During search operations this morning teams were unable to locate the climber, Rob Planker, age 50 of Olympia, WA, at the point last seen. During an aerial search a 2,000' slide path was detected leading down a 50 degree ice and snow covered slope over some of the steepest, most inhospitable terrain on the mountain.
No signs of the climber were found during an extensive visual search of the slide area. The search was conducted from a Chinook helicopter out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Ground searchers located some of Planker's equipment at the point last seen. Search efforts continue by air this afternoon with the support of Northwest Helicopters.
The climber's situation was reported Monday at 5:00 p.m. by his climbing partners. Following the report, two teams of climbing rangers attempted to reach the climber. At 12,100' one of the teams was forced to turn back due to extreme winds of 55 mph. The second team overnighted in a snow cave until the search resumed at 5:00 a.m this morning.
Liberty Ridge is one of the most technical climbs on Mount Rainier. Members of the climbing party are experienced climbers and well equipped for the climb.
The search will continue through the afternoon. Planning for Wednesday's operation is currently in process.