Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park successfully rescued four climbers from near the summit of Mount Rainier this morning. The climbers had been stranded on the mountain since Monday. All four are alive but suffering from exposure to the cold. They are being transported by air and ground to local hospitals.
At 9:15 a.m., the park’s helicopter, conducting aerial reconnaissance during a brief window of good weather, spotted the stranded climbers in the saddle between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest. The helicopter was able to land, confirm the climbers’ identities and fly them off the mountain in two groups. All four were off the upper mountain by 10:05 a.m.
The climbers, Yevgeniy Krasnitskiy of Portland, Oregon; Ruslan Khasbulatov, of Jersey City, New Jersey; Vasily Aushev, of New York, New York; and Constantine Toporov, of New York, New York, began their ascent of Mount Rainier on Friday, May 31, from White River Campground. On Monday, June 3, Mount Rainier’s Communications Center received a 911 call reporting that the climbers had been stranded at 13,500 feet, near the top of the Liberty Ridge climbing route. The park attempted to retrieve the climbers using the park’s helicopter on Monday evening and twice on Tuesday, June 4, but were turned back by sustained 50 mph winds. The park requested the assistance of a Chinook helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which responded with five members of the 2-135th General Support and Aviation Battalion and three Pararescue Jumpers from the Air Force’s 304th Rescue Squadron, but clouds and wind turned back their two rescue attempts.
The weather yesterday, Wednesday, June 5, was cloudy and wet with high winds and blowing snow on the upper mountain. The weather prevented any aerial operations. Rangers prepared numerous contingency plans, including both air and ground rescue options, to implement today as opportunities arose.
The location where the climbers were found was approximately 1/2 mile from the site where they had last been seen two days ago, and in a place much less affected by wind and more accessible to rescue. The route between the two sites requires expert and technical climbing, and the climbers contributed greatly to their own successful rescue.
As many as 33 people have been active with this rescue at any given time, including resources from the National Park Service, United States Military, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and Washington State’s Search and Rescue Planning Unit.
The Liberty Ridge route is one of the more technical and dangerous routes on Mount Rainier. Climbing briefs for this and three other climbing routes can be found on the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/climbing.htm. The briefs describe each route in detail and provide information about how to prepare for them. Climbers should check current conditions and weather forecasts, and be prepared to change or cancel their plans if necessary.