Analysis: Over 100 climbing deaths on Mount Rainier
The six people lost on Mount Rainier last week adds to the growing number list of people who’ve died climbing the mountain, with 91 people perishing while either attempting to reach the summit or on the way down, and another 25 dying while climbing on the mountain, according to a MyNorthwest.com analysis of National Park Service records.
While it’s still unknown how the six died – they’re believed to have fallen or been swept off the mountain while trying to climb the difficult Liberty Ridge route – the review of the NPS database reveals the dangers of the mountain itself and the surrounding environs.
Falling is the leading cause of fatalities on the mountain, with 90 people dying in falls while climbing, hiking or taking part in other activities on the mountain or in the park since its inception.
Occasionally, victims are never found, as in the case of 11 people swept to their deaths in an ice fall in 1981 in Mount Rainier’s deadliest accident. The same is true of a non-alpine accident in which a cargo transport plane crashed into the mountain in 1946 – the bodies of 32 Marines remain entombed.
The most recent reported missing is Gerge Merriam, who disappeared in September 2013 on a day hike on the Pinnacle Peak Trail. He’s believed to have fallen to his death.
The elements have claimed a number of victims over the years, with 11 people killed by hypothermia after getting lost or trapped on the mountain. The most recent happened in December of 2011 when snowshoer Brian Grobois became disoriented and descended into Stevens Canyon, where his body was found just above 4,600 feet.
In all, 411 people have died on the mountain or in the Mount Rainier National Park since federal government records were first kept.
The first death in the park was recorded in January, 1897, but it had nothing to do with climbing. E.H. Hudson died from “traumatic injuries” after a gun fell from his pocket and he was shot in the neck.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.