Due to dangerous conditions, the chances of recovering the bodies of six climbers from Mount Rainier looks gloom after National Park officials announced that there would be no immediate plans to find them after they likely fell thousands of feet to their imminent deaths in the worst alpine accident on the mountain in decades.
Continuous ice and rock fall make the area too dangers for rescuers, park spokesperson Patti Wold said Sunday morning. The area will be search periodically by air in the coming weeks and months, she said. She also added, “there’s no certainty that recovery is possible given the location.”
Park officials believe the group fell 3,300 feet from their last known location of 12,800 feet on Liberty Ridge.
“It’s inconceivable that anyone survived that” fall, Wold said. Officials have not released the names of those who died.
A helicopter crew on Saturday found camping and climbing gear in the avalanche-prone area. Air and ground searches for the missing climbers were halted until Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a sad day at Mount Rainier,” park superintendent Randy King said Sunday.
The missing group includes four clients of Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International and two tour guides. They were supposed to return from the climb Friday but when they did not return, the climbing company notified park officials
The group was embarking on a five-day climb of the Liberty Ridge route, one of the more technical and advanced routes up the mountain.
Before starting the climb, the group had to meet certain pre-requisites, and their ice and technical climbing skills as well as their biography were evaluated by a three-person team, Gordon Janow, guiding service’s program director, said.
“It’s devastating, it’s emotionally draining, it’s trying to make sense of it all,” Janow said of the tragedies.
The loss of these six climbers marks the deadliest climbing accident ever on the peak in the Cascade mountain range. In 1981, 11 people were killed during a guided climb when they encountered a massive ice fall on the Ingraham Glacier. On Oregon’s Mount Hood, seven students and two adults died after they dug a snow cave during a sudden storm in 1986.