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Weather Hampering Search For Missing Parties At Mount Rainier National Park


Poor weather conditions hampered efforts Wednesday to search for two parties overdue from the backcountry of Mount Rainier National Park.

Park officials say two searchers traveled the route above Paradise to Panorama Point on Tuesday afternoon to assess conditions in the area and look for signs of the overdue parties.

"Travel was extremely difficult with the team sinking two – three feet into the snow with each step. Visibility was limited, winds were gusting up to 100 mph, and their tracks filled in behind them as they negotiated the deep snow," said park spokeswoman Patti Wold.

The incident command team, lead by Park Ranger Kelly Bush, was planning to send field teams out once conditions become favorable. Efforts were currently focused on organizing a team of skilled skiers and climbers who have experience in negotiating the terrain to Camp Muir in difficult travel conditions. The team will be prepared to launch an extensive search once weather conditions improve.

The plans include an aerial search by helicopter once flight conditions were favorable. The weather forecast indicates poor conditions through the forecasted future. Although both parties are equipped for winter camping, there is concern with the delay in getting searchers into the field due to the risk associated with difficult travel conditions, severe weather, and extreme avalanche conditions. Avalanche conditions have gone from high to extreme overnight.

There are two teams of overdue parties currently on the mountain. A party of two planning to winter camp on the Muir Snowfield over the weekend was due out on Sunday, January 15 -- Mark Vucich, 37 from San Diego, California and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, from Atlanta, Georgia. A second party of two climbers on a summit attempt via the Disappointment Cleaver route was due back Monday, January 16th. The names of the second party have not been released.

Both parties were equipped for camping in winter weather. Due to weather conditions it is expected that they are waiting out the weather before attempting to descend to Paradise.

With the severe weather conditions over the weekend it is expected that the parties would be overdue.

Visitors to the upper mountain are advised to stop moving, dig in and wait for better weather during severe weather and white out conditions. There is a winter storm warning in effect through Wednesday night. The storm was predicted to bring 24" – 42” of new snow to Paradise.


I'll bet that very few Americans are aware of the fact that in many of our larger national parks, crisis is a normal -- almost every day -- event.

How can we help get the word out to the public?  If we could, respect for rangers and environment might go up.

But then again, there are a lot of shows on TV tonight that are more entertaining.  (a bit of sarcasm)

All backcountry permits should be sold with an Insurance Fee so the general taxpayer not seeking extreme outdoor adventures does not have to pay for those eager to risk life&limb. As NPS budgets take more cuts, other park division projects should not have to subsidize these extreme outdoor activities.  Indeed, more risks are undertaken by these "lost, overdue" adventurers knowing that somebody will risk their lives to find them without paying any direct costs for the rescues.  We have been told that selected NPS Ranger Divisions do not favor additional Insurance Fees so they the command/control - search/rescue rangers have "more control" of other unspent park budget projects.  Since auto insurance and property liability insurance is required of all drivers and property owers with loans, it's only common sense to require outdoor thrill/adrenaline seekers to pay up !  As NPS Budgets decline especially under future GOP leadership, other worthy park projects will have to support expensive search & rescue operations.

Aren't search and rescue teams supposed to search and rescue?   If the entrance to the park was free and the search and rescue teams were not on the payroll but were volunteers wouldn't that be a different situation?

The idea of backcountry insurance is probably one to consider.  It likely wouldn't be expensive.  And while many search and rescue organizations are volunteer, it still requires money to equip and supply them.  NPS personnel make up many of the searchers, but it's not infrequent to need help from outside groups when the search requires it.

Most S&R volunteers supply their own equipment at their own expense -- which is usually considerable.  Thank goodness we have people willing to do this.  But as a former volunteer who found myself having to replace damaged or worn equipment, I sure might have appreciated a few dollars of help.

Throughout the country, in local jurisdictions where there are frequent needs for S&R (some Utah counties, for example) the argument over charging for rescues is a constant point of discussion.

The search and rescue teams aren't on the park payroll.  It makes sense that those that put themselves at risk should be the ones that underwrite the cost of search and rescue.  Either they buy "insurance" with their entry fee or independently (for $2.50 you get S&R insurance in CO) or you pay the full SR cost if you require the service. 

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