Mt Rainier Accident

2:21 p.m. on June 1, 2014 (EDT)
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Looks like six people were lost recently after sleeping beneath an avalanche chute. The details seem sketchy so far, but the incident  makes the point about snow and ice. It is dependable when it is frozen, but a even a slight thaw makes it unpredictable. The Quaternary volcanoes of the PNW have high snow falls in a moderate climate. People like to climb in the warm part of the year, especially in clear weather. That is when thaws are most likely.

 

The standard route for newbies goes to old stone cabin the first day (Muir cabin)? Then the climb starts at about 0300 or earlier by headlamp the next morning. Summit and get your butt back down to the cabin before noon. Be careful out there.

12:42 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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The reports I've seen state where the bodies are currently located, but state it was unknown how they got there (climbed, fell, got swept away, etc).  Can you provide a link to the article you base your info on?

Ed

1:14 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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ppine, what you're referring to is Camp Muir on the south side.  Not a very pleasant place given the impact of the hundreds of people who pass through there. The fall/avalanche occurred on Liberty Ridge, on the north side. The party fell/was swept away not down a chute, but off a face about 3300 feet. There is currently no plan to search for survivors let alone bodies. It is far too dangerous.

Erich

7:52 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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The guide company leading the group, Alpine Ascents International, states the group started from the White River Campground.  This made me wonder, since the Carbon River Campground appear an easier, shorter, more direct, access to the climb.  Both White River and Carbon River camps are north of Mt Rainier.

According the Sunday Seattle Times officials think the climbing party was around 12,800' at the time of the accident.  That elevation corresponds to a point where the Liberty Ridge climbing route enters the snow field below Liberty Cap.  The story notes officials still don't know if the climbers were traveling or at camp when the accident occurred.  My PNW friends claim Liberty Ridge Route is among the toughest on the mountain, demanding in about any criteria you wish to use to describe a route's challenge.

The two scenarios the officials list coincide with events most likely to sweep an entire group of climbers.  My hunch is they were traveling at the time of the event, aligned above one another along the fall line, because I can't imagine them choosing to camp in this hazardous location, when much safer options were only 200' higher, and less than 1/4 mile away to the west.  The estimated pre-slide location of the climbers makes plausible that a slide swept them as they were ascending/descending the snow field due north of the summit of Liberty Cap. 

Ed 

9:39 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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Ed, you're right.  Liberty is definitely a hard man route. 

I was up in the mountains Saturday and on my return trip I saw that my tracks in the snow had sloughed away and it looked like virgin snow.  The snow pack is coming off the mountain pretty fast. 

It was one of the warmest days so far this year in WA.  Sunny weather is such a two-edged sword. 

10:30 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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Jeff is correct that Liberty Ridge is a hard route, though easier than Willis Wall. Snow is coming off quickly, though when the accident presumably happened it was  a bit cooler and some snow fell. The cascade volcanos get a lot of traffic, especially Rainier. But they never had much attraction for me as a climber because of the rotten rock. Several decades ago, a large chunk of Little Tahoma let go and I never forgot that. Mt. Stuart isn't as high, but much more enjoyable to climb. My condolences to the families of those lost last week.

10:32 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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This is awful. I have been following it...as much as you can with the little information dribbling out. Alpine Ascents has had a hard year of loss as they lost Sherpa on Everest too. My brother is going with them to Mt. Baker in the Cascades in July. A great company and too experienced to sleep in a chute. I certainly don't think that happened.

10:34 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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The location of the bodies is indicated by signals one of the search helicopters picked up from the any beacons a number (all?) were wearing. The guess that they were hit while climbing comes from the last satphones report combined with observation of the slide debris, satphones report position,navy beacon position, and tent location. The tents are in a clear area, and from the photos from the search helicopter that I saw, definitely not in a chute.

It is surprising to me that this party got caught. Alpine Ascents is pretty conservative with risk, as are all of their guides I know personally. But as noted by Erich, Liberty Ridge is a tough and high risk route.

Muir hut, as noted is on the other side and an overly popular day hike itself. I only went up that way once, and never again. Emmons is much nicer and fewer people, though still popular.

10:54 a.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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This somewhat reminds me of the 1981 disaster. In that case, 11 climbers died when a piece of the Ingraham Glacier let go. They were in a relatively safe place, but the size of the ice fall was huge. Ice and rock falls are an inherent risk in climbing and however one tries to minimize the risk by climbing at night and early morning, erosion is the nature of the beast.

12:54 p.m. on June 2, 2014 (EDT)
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Edit to correct a typo. It was avalanche beacons that the search helicopter picked up, not "any" or "navy"

 

Bill S said:

The location of the bodies is indicated by signals one of the search helicopters picked up from the avy beacons a number (all?) were wearing. The guess that they were hit while climbing comes from the last satphones report combined with observation of the slide debris, satphones report position, avy beacon position, and tent location. The tents are in a clear area, and from the photos from the search helicopter that I saw, definitely not in a chute.

......

 

11:00 a.m. on June 3, 2014 (EDT)
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I tried climbing Rainier a few times, but nothing like Liberty Ridge.  I was  turned back each time and lacked days off to wait for better weather.

Ed

1:50 p.m. on June 3, 2014 (EDT)
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I was very sorry to hear this news and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of all the climbers.

I learned that one of the guides also went to my college (though a decade after me). The remembrances of him are memories of an excellent student, mountaineer, and individual. Apparently his honors thesis was on the international climbing community.

7:40 a.m. on June 4, 2014 (EDT)
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September 30, 2014
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