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Day Hike Turns Fatal at Mount Rainier National Park


A day hike onto the flanks of Mount Rainier has turned fatal, with blizzard conditions killing one man and leaving two others stuck on the mountain.

Mount Rainier National Park officials this morning planned to try to rescue the two stranded hikers via helicopter.

Park rangers say the three -- two men and a woman -- planned a day hike Monday to Camp Muir, which stands at about 10,000 feet feet on the 14,410-foot mountain and has a shelter. However, a wintry storm that blew in pinned them down near that location. Park officials say the storm dumped 2 feet of snow and created 5-foot drifts at Paradise and generated winds of 70 mph at Camp Muir.

At 3:30 a.m. Tuesday the trio, which dug a snow shelter to avoid the brunt of the storm, managed to get through to park rangers with a 911 emergency call; but because of heavy snow and near zero visibility rangers were unable to safely initiate a search at that time. At about 7:15 a.m. one member of the party found his way to Camp Muir and was able to direct a search team, made up of climbing guides and park rangers stationed at Camp Muir, to the party’s location near Anvil Rock.

All three of the stranded hikers were under shelter at Camp Muir by 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, though all suffered hypothermia and frostbite and one was unconscious and unresponsive and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

The man who died was the husband of the surviving woman. All three were in their early 30s and from Bellevue, Washington. They all were experienced mountaineers who had visited Camp Muir in the past and enjoy hiking on Mount Rainier. Two had reached the summit.

Because rangers didn't want to subject the two surviving hikers to more cold and snow, the preferred means of rescuing them will be by helicopter rather than across the snowfield. A Chinook helicopter and crew from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Lewis was on standby all day to retrieve the injured hikers, but the weather never cleared enough. The survivors’ conditions are stable at this time, and they are under the care of two doctors, clients of one of the park’s guide services, who happened to be at Camp Muir Tuesday night. The shelter at Camp Muir is warm, dry, and well-stocked with hot foods and liquids.


And this rescue cost the American taxpayers how much? Also (unless things have changed since I was responsible for calculating annual SAR costs) it you want to get a more accurate figure when calculating the total annual SAR costs for all NPS areas, why don't you start including such things as the salaries for the climbing rangers (who have SAR as one of their primary functions) who are stationed in areas such as Yosemite, Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, and Denali; the cost of specialized SAR training for NPS personnel; the cost of "donated services" such as the use of Military aircraft (both fixed wing and rotary wing) and personnel; and the use of volunteer SAR groups such as Rocky Mtn. Rescue, Alpine Rescue, all of whom have more than their share of expenses relating to SAR missions. Once these "additional expenses" have been figured in, this new "Total SAR Costs" figure might just lead to a more open discussion on the need for requiring "recreational insurance" for NPS visitors who are enaged in "high risk" acitivities such as technical climbing, whitewater kayaking/rafting, winter mountaineering, etc.

Recreational insurance? That's the most rediculous thing I've heard. It's organized extortion. Complaining about how much SAR costs taxpayers is ludacris. Do you also complain about the cost of police and fire patroling your community? Bad things happen, sometimes to experienced individuals and sometimes not, whether it's high on a mountian or on your local freeway. It's life.

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