Hikers rescued from Mount Rainier | AspenTimes.com

Hikers rescued from Mount Rainier

Donna Gordon Blankinship
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

LONGMIRE, Wash. ” An Army Chinook helicopter from Fort Lewis has rescued two hikers from Mount Rainier, according to a spokesman for Mount Rainier National Park.

Spokesman Kevin Bacher said they were picked up about 6:15 a.m. Wednesday at Camp Muir for a flight to Madigan Hospital at the Army base near Tacoma for treatment or transport to another hospital.

The man and woman had frostbite and hypothermia from being caught overnight Monday in a blizzard that killed the woman’s husband.

The three had been on a day hike to Camp Muir when they were caught in the storm that dumped 2 feet of snow.

Bacher said the three people in their 30s from Bellevue, east of Seattle, were experience climbers and two had reached the top of Mount Rainier before.

Bacher and Park Ranger Sandi Kinzer declined to identify the three, saying park officials were having difficulty contacting the dead hiker’s family.

Rangers received a call at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday that three hikers had been trapped in a sudden blizzard on the Muir snowfield as they were descending from a day hike to Camp Muir.

Camp Muir, a staging area for climbers, is at about 10,000 feet elevation on the 14,410-foot mountain.

After a winter of heavy snowfall that forced repeated closure of mountain passes, unseasonably cold conditions have continued long into spring in Washington’s Cascade Range.

Paradise, the jumping-off point for the trail to Camp Muir, received 2 feet of fresh snow over Monday night, with 5-foot drifts and 70 mph winds at Camp Muir, Bacher said.

“Nobody expects a blizzard in June,” he said.

The three apparently built a snow shelter at about 9,500 feet. The weather prevented an immediate rescue attempt after their call, Bacher said. The other male hiker left the married couple and battled through heavy snow to reach Camp Muir at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday and was able to direct rescuers to the other hikers near Anvil Rock, a large outcropping at the edge of the Muir snowfield.

The others were brought to a shelter at Camp Muir about an hour later, but one man was unconscious and later died, Bacher said. All were suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.

Three doctors, clients of a climbing concessionaire in the park, were at Camp Muir to help stabilize the two remaining hikers, Bacher said. One of the doctors descended the mountain later Tuesday.

It was the doctors’ recommendation not to attempt a ground evacuation, Bacher said.

Bacher said day hikers are not required to check in with park officials, and these hikers didn’t. But he said it’s a good idea any time of year to inquire about conditions on the mountain, where weather can turn deadly quickly.

“Be prepared for worse conditions than you expect,” he said. “Be prepared to spend the night out.”

The death was the first reported on the mountain this year. In December, a 22-year-old Lynnwood man, Kirk Reiser, was killed when he was swept up in a snowslide while on a day hike on snowshoes.