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Contact: Patti Wold, Public Information Officer, 360-569-6701
June 14, 2011, 18:00 - The seach on Liberty Ridge for Rob Planker, age 50 of Olympia, WA, was suspended this afternoon due to strong winds, The climber fell ill during a climb up the challenging Liberty Ridge route. During an aerial search today a 2,000' slide track was detected leading down a 50 degree ice and snow covered slope over some of the steepest, most inhospitable terrain on the mountain. The track initiated at the point Planker was last seen at 13,600' and appears to end in an icefall below Liberty Wall at 11,500'.
No signs of the climber were found during an extensive aerial search of the slide area. Ground searchers located some of Planker's equipment at the point last seen. The operation is now considered a body recovery as the risk-to-benefit ratio is not conducive to extensive searching. Limited visual searching from the ground will continue.
The climber's situation was reported by his climbing partners on June 13. He'd become nonambulatory, hypothermic and was suffering from mild frostbite. They attempted to get him up and walking that morning. By 10:00 a.m. they decided to seek assistance. they made their way to the Emmons Glacier where they made contact with a ranger at 5:00 p.m that evening. Following the report two teams of climbing rangers, one team from Camp Schurman and the second from Camp Muir, 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. the morning of June 14.
A Chinook helicopter out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and an MD 530 from Northwest Helicopters assisted in the search.
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.
This is the final update for this incident.