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A search is underway for a climber missing since yesterday on Liberty Ridge, on the north side of Mount Rainier.
Matthew Bunker, of Seattle, was reported missing by the other member of his climbing party at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 26. Bunker had been skiing ahead of his partner near Thumb Rock, at about 10,400 feet elevation, as they were descending from the upper mountain on skis, and was believed to have fallen in the steep terrain.
The National Park Service’s exclusive use helicopter was on its way back to Mount Rainier from North Cascades National Park where it had been part of aviation training for North Cascades rangers. The helicopter diverted to perform an initial reconnaissance on the area. Severe down slope winds around Liberty Ridge prevented the helicopter from getting close to the terrain, and the crew was unable to locate the missing climber before returning to base at Mount Rainier.
A second reconnaissance flight went out later in the evening with three climbing rangers aboard to gather further information on the incident and attempt to locate Bunker. The helicopter and crew again encountered severe down slope winds and increasing clouds, which limited their ability to approach the ridge. The second flight also ended without the missing climber being located. Poor flying conditions at the location have prevented additional flights today.
The terrain below where Bunker went missing is near the location of the Liberty Ridge tragedy that claimed the lives of six climbers in 2014. It is very steep, terminates in cliffs, and is known for frequent avalanches and active rockfall. This, combined with the broken surface of the Carbon Glacier, will prevent the deployment of ground teams in this search. The Park Service is not asking for any assistance in the continued search for Matthew Bunker. Further helicopter searches are planned when more stable weather comes through the area early next week.
Last updated: June 28, 2020