Rescue crews face challenges, dangers while searching on Mount Rainier

Mount_Rainier.jpg
The new and blowing snow makes it difficult for rescue crews to find traces of missing persons. On days like Monday where the clouds part and the snow takes a break, crews can get a bird's eye view from the air. (AP Photo/File) | Zoom
"When we get out in the mountains we forget how quickly nature can take the upper hand."

Putting rescue crews on Mt. Rainier is a dangerous but necessary job. According to Paul Baugher, head of the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol, the weather conditions not only make it dangerous for those lost on a large mountain like Rainier, but also for the rescue crews.

"You have to consider too, the safety of the rescuers," Baugher told 97.3 KIRO FM's Ron and Don Show. There are currently high avalanche hazards, bad weather conditions and tough travel in the deep snow.

"[It's] a big mountain experience; every bit as much as a McKinley or an Everest trip would be. And we're verifying that right now because we're seeing that there is a storm that has been on Mount Rainier and that's as big as any mountain you'll find."

The new and blowing snow makes it difficult for rescue crews to find traces of missing persons. On days like Monday where the clouds part and the snow takes a break, crews can get a bird's eye view from the air. Breaks like that are often short lived.

"So really what you have to do is cover the last seen areas and work from the there." Other times, said Baugher, you look towards specific drainages a missing person might drop into.

As the weather conditions remain uncertain, crews will face more challenges as they search for four overdue campers and climbers on Rainier.

Chances of finding the four alive on the mountain grew more remote Monday as an intensive search turned up no sign, and another storm approached.

Park officials said a storm prevented a search on Tuesday for the climbers.

Mark Vucich, of San Diego, and Michelle Trojanowski, of Atlanta, were due to return from a snow-camping trip on Jan. 15. Climbers Sork "Erik" Yang, of Springfield, Ore., and Seol Hee Jin, of Korea, were due back from a summit attempt on Jan. 16.

Though Patti Wold told the Associated Press that the park will begin scaling down the operation to a more limited search, Baugher said it's not time to give up hope yet.

"There have been instances where people are prepared," he said. But they would need to be well-prepared climbers, if they have enough provisions, then they would have a chance. As time goes by, according to Baugher, that chance does go down.

Crews will resume a "more focused" search on Wednesday, weather permitting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Alyssa Kleven, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at MyNorthwest.com. She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.
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