A team of climbing rangers recovered the body of a Stevensville man from Mount Rainier in a predawn mission Friday morning, and authorities continued an air search for a Missoula climber missing and feared dead on the mountain.
The body of Luke Casady, 29, who recently founded the Alpine Club of Missoula, was found at the bottom of a 4,000-foot-high glacial wall of rock and ice by two Mount Rainier National Park rangers.
Ansel Vizcaya of Missoula, another member of the club and Casady's climbing partner, was not located. Rangers searched the area where Casady's body was found using avalanche transceivers and probes but found no sign of the 29-year-old Vizcaya.
The ground search was halted as temperatures warmed and avalanche danger increased Friday. Authorities continued an aerial search.
Michael Gauthier, supervisory climbing ranger at the park, said it is unlikely Vizcaya is still alive.
Casady had scaled Mount Rainier several times, according to his wife, Callyn, but it was his first attempt via the difficult Liberty Ridge route.
The Casadys would have celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary on July 3. Luke proposed to Callyn on the summit of Mount Meru in Africa.
They have a 4-year-old son, Maikol.
"He's a very, very passionate person," Callyn, an administrative associate at the University of Montana School of Pharmacy, said. "A very intense person. He doesn't do anything lightly."
Casady was the third climber to die on the Liberty Ridge route on the north side of the 14,411-foot peak in the last month.
Gauthier said the Liberty Ridge route "is in wonderful climbing shape," but noted heavy snowfall and winds of more than 100 mph hampered climbers all weekend and stranded several people on the mountain.
"If the weather conditions are good it's a nice trip up," said Gerald Olbu of the New Rocky Mountaineers - another climbing group in Missoula - who knew both Casady and Vizcaya. "But if it's bad, it's a very nasty route."
According to park officials, more than 11,000 people try to climb Mount Rainier each year. Only 200 tackle it via Liberty Ridge.
At his club's extensive Web site, www.http://alpineclubofmissoula.com
, Casady described the planned ascent, which appeared to have already been twice delayed by weather.