Officials at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state fear that six climbers are dead after receiving a distress signal thousands of feet below their last known location.
Here’s what you need to know about this developing story:
1. The People Feared Dead Were Experienced Climbers
The company of six included four experienced climbers and two guides under the employment of Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International. According to Mount Rainier National Park, the guides were described as “skilled.”
The team set out on Monday and had planned to reach Mount Rainier’s 14,409-foot peak on Thursday. But according to a since deleted blog post on Alpine Ascents International’s Mount Rainier blog, the team turned back at around 13,000 feet, citing bad weather.
The blog, posted late Wednesday night, said that the team was in good spirits.
2. The Climbers Were in an Avalanche-Prone Area
The team’s distress signal occurred in an avalanche-prone area known as Liberty Ridge. The ridge sits at 12,800 feet, and a helicopter crew located debris from camping gear in the area. The team would have fallen about 3,300 feet to their deaths if swept off the ridge by an avalanche.
3. There is Little Chance of Recovering Bodies
As little chance of survival as there is for the six, park officials state that the families may never be able to bury their loved ones, either. According to ABC News:
“It would expose our rangers to pretty extreme conditions,” [Park Ranger Fawn Bauer] said. “And, in all honesty, we may never be able to get on the ground there.”
Aircraft will survey the area periodically in the coming weeks and months, Wold said, but the possibility of recovering the six is uncertain.
The latest air and ground search was suspended due to falling rocks and ice.
4. Some Names Have Officially Been Released
According to Fox News:
Alpine Ascents’ director of programs, Gordon Janow, said he wasn’t ready to release information about the climbers.
Below is a video of Mahaney climbing Mount Frances in Alaska in 2012.
5. It’s the Deadliest Climbing Accident in the Cascade Range in 30 Years
On June 21, 1981, 11 people died while braving the Ingraham Glacier on Mount Rainier’s south-eastern flank. No bodies were ever recovered.