I was on Rainier during this taking a Denali Prep class with AAI. Carrie Parker, one of the AAI guides who responded to this and was mentioned in the article, was one of my guides on the trip.
As a commentary on the situation - death happens in the mountains. The guides responded quick and professionally, but were detached. Even the clients were detached (myself included) when we found out. We never got near the recovery efforts, so it might have been different had we witnessed them.
The conditions on Rainier were very crappy when I was there last week. This day happened to be beautiful weather, but the overall agreement of the guides was that the avalance / crevasse risk was too high.
Denali National Park & Preserve (AK)
Two More Climbers Killed On Mt. McKinley
A fatal climbing fall at Denali Pass on Mt. McKinley took the lives of two mountaineers late Wednesday night. Two other members of the climbing team were flown to area hospitals with critical injuries early yesterday morning. Mountaineers at the 17,200-foot high camp reportedly witnessed the four-person rope team fall from Denali Pass near 18,000 feet around 11 p.m. Wednesday night. An expedition of Air National Guard pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron responded and confirmed that two of the four had died in the fall. The other two patients were placed in rescue litters and lowered to the 17,200-foot high camp for emergency medical treatment - one was responsive and in stable condition with a broken leg and head injury but the other was non-responsive and suffering from labored breathing. The Air National Guard medics at high camp worked throughout the night to maintain his airway. Early yesterday morning, the park's high altitude A-Star B3 helicopter evacuated each climber separately. They were flown to the 7,200-foot Kahiltna Basecamp to two awaiting LifeMed air ambulances. Details on the cause of the fall are unknown. Weather at the time of the accident was clear with relatively calm winds. The four-person rope team was beginning the traverse from Denali Pass to the 17,200-foot camp along a 45-degree slope of very hard, windblown snowpack. This fall occurred in the same vicinity as the fatal fall of an unroped Italian climber on May 16th. Names of the climbers involved in the fatal accident are being withheld pending notification of family and friends. [Submitted by Maureen McLaughlin, Information Officer]
Mount Rainier National Park (WA)
Climber Perishes During Liberty Ridge Ascent
A party of three climbers departed White River on June 10th for a summit attempt via the challenging Liberty Ridge route. During the climb, one member of the party, Rob Planker, 50, of Olympia, Washington, became severely hypothermic and possibly frostbitten. On June 13th, his partners were unable to get him walking from their camp at 13,600 feet, so left him to seek assistance. They contacted a ranger on Emmons Glacier at 5 p.m. that evening. Two teams of climbing rangers headed to his location, one team from Camp Schurman and the other from Camp Muir. One of the teams had to turn back at 12,100 feet due to winds blowing at 55 mph. Members of the second team spent the night in a snow cave and resumed their efforts to reach Planker at 5 a.m. the next morning. They found some of his gear at the point where his partners left him, but were unable to find Planker. Air searchers found a 2,000-foot-long slide track leading down a 50 degree ice- and snow-covered slope over some of the steepest and most inhospitable terrain on the mountain. The track indicated intermittent airborne periods and ended at an icefall below Liberty Wall. No signs of Planker were found during a thorough visual search of the slide area. A Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and an MD 530 from Northwest Helicopters assisted in the search, which was called off at 4 p.m. due to high winds. Limited visual searching from the ground will continue. The operation is now considered a body recovery, as the risk-to-benefit ratio is not conducive to extensive searching. Liberty Ridge is one of the most technical climbs on Mount Rainier. Members of the climbing party are experienced climbers and were well equipped for the climb. IC on this incident was Brian Hasebe. [Submitted by Patti Wold, Park Information Officer]
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