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Climber likely dead on Rainier

Bummer, sounds like a good guy. 

Truly unfortunate and sad.

It says he was a well experienced climber; I wonder what led to his getting so cold and hypothermic when his climbing partners did not? That seems strange to me.

Excellent point.  I bet he was the victim of a medical emergency or injury that led to his getting cold.  

One would like to think the vic would have informed his partners of any obvious medical event.  Experience teaches one to share such info.  And one would like to think his companions would have observed a lack of warm gear, if his chill was equipment related or such.  Experience teaches one to notice these things.  I am inclined to think he was a diabetic, and was unaware of his declining vitality until it was too late.  The possibilities dwarf the blue skies of Montana. 


I do not know what happened, and it may not have been related to a lack of preparation or gear, but I have begun doing a silent visual check of party members before starting.

If I am going to be part of a group, I have learned to pay close attention to what people are wearing and bringing. I always haul extra water, food, shoes, clothing, etc, in my car whenever I go out, but especially if I am meeting a group. I don't know how many times I've discovered people didn't bring water, food, or adequate clothing...or anything. Don't get me started about walmart flip flops.  Tho worst time was getting a couple miles underground in the Grassy Cove Cave system to discover one of the group didn't have extra flashlight batteries or enough water. All he brought was a grocery store incandecent flashlight, a quart of water, and a sandwich with donuts. And we ended up being in the cave for 20hrs...  

SNEWS, the outdoor industry trade publication, has had updates on the climber and this story, which I've been folllowing.

He's described as a very experienced climber. Even for the most experienced and prepared, bad things still can happen. It's a very unfortunate story for him, his friends, and family.


The search on Mount Rainier for a stranded climber and outdoor retail buyer was suspended late June 14 due to weather and signs that Rob Plankers (photo, right) may have perished in a slide or fall.

The mission is now considered “a body recovery”, national park officials said.

Plankers, a camping and climbing buyer and senior manager at The Alpine Experience outdoor shop in Olympia, Wash., was left on Liberty Ridge at about 13,600 feet June 13 after he showed signs of hypothermia and could no longer walk. His two climbing partners descended to get help.

Two separate rescue missions late June 13 were turned back to due to high winds. Plankers was said to have a supplies and a shelter, which was perhaps a bivy or a one-man tent, The Alpine Experience owner Joe Hyer told SNEWS.

“He was a very experienced climber and knew how to be prepared,” Hyer said.

On June 14, rangers reportedly located Plankers’ camp, finding just a pack and some supplies, Hyer said. There were slide tracks in the snow indicating something had slid about 2,000 feet to rough terrain below.

Plankers and two other climbers, identified by local media as a couple from Colorado, set out June 10 from White River to summit the 14,411-foot mountain in Washington. They had intended to return June 12. The couple came into Camp Sherman June 13, alerting authorities to Plankers’ location.

Plankers, 50, has worked at The Alpine Experience since 1999, Hyer said. He and his wife, Jackie, have been married for 14 years. Plankers served in the Army for 20 years, retiring in 1999 as a master sergeant. A month later, he was working at The Alpine Experience.

“The word that sums up Rob is 'service,'” Hyer told SNEWS. “He served his country and then immediately jumped in to serve his community and the outdoor industry.”

Hyer said he first met Plankers in 1996 when Plankers took a basic climbing course at the store.

“He was a good customer for three years and then became part of our team and family,” Hyer said.

Plankers is fiercely loyal to the store, the outdoor industry and lesser-known gear brands like Hilleberg tents, Hyer said. “He has a strong independent streak. Rob really believes specialty retail is about bringing in special products,” he said. “We had to put a limit on how many new products and brands he could bring in.”

Hyer said he is waiting on word from the family to see how best the store and customers can help.
-- David Clucas

Just to make sure I my thought above weren't missunderstood, I wasn't intending to imply that I thought it was the victim's fault that he became hypothermic.

My sincere thoughts, prayers, and sympathy go out to all involved, especially his family and friends.

gonzan said:

Just to make sure I my thought above weren't missunderstood, I wasn't intending to imply that I thought it was the victim's fault that he became hypothermic.

My sincere thoughts, prayers, and sympathy go out to all involved, especially his family and friends.

 No, I understood that, Gonzan. Don't worry.

I just wanted to add what I had seen, since it's easy for conjecture to go awry.

It could be a long time until they find him and piece together what exactly happened.  Remember in 1999 when they finally discovered George Mallory's body from his 1924 climb?


Yeah ... and I remember most of his clothing and gear were still intact.  

I recall that he had broken leg-bones.

I believe (?) he used gabardine-fabric for wind-resistance, and hob-nail boots for climbing.   Also, there were some kind of birds, waaaaay up there, above 20,000 ft, pecking bones.


FromSagetoSnow said:

It could be a long time until they find him...

Hopefully not.  Unlike Everest, Rainier is a relatively accessible mountain.  The mountaineering community of the PNW is large and fairly tight knit; it is fair to presume a determined and sustained effort will be made by both organized and ad hoc groups to bring him home.


Just to 'jog' this thread, and possibly close it out (?) ....

Any further developments in this story?   Body found?  


I heard last that the search was suspended. 

I was just on the Mount Rainier web site checking on trail conditions and their is still a LOT of snow.  Probably way to much for a proper recovery search.  Paradise still has over 7' of snow.  They are saying that the melt out will not be until late August or Early October.   I would think that at that point the Rangers and others will try to search the area of the slide.  With the amount of snow that we had this year I am surprised they where up there in early June.  It must have been like a winter climb. 


Find him yet ?


unfortunate story.  Yet another reminder that no matter how strong a climber you are, and no matter how well-prepared you may be in terms of gear, you can't screw around with high winds (reportedly steady at 55 mph, which turned rescue teams back) and freezing temperatures up high.   too easy to get depleted from the effort, the exposure, and the altitude. 

it appears the place where he bivouacked avalanched into an icefall, where SAR won't go because it's too dangerous.  Sadly, his body may never be recovered. 

leadbelly2550 said:

it appears the place where he bivouacked avalanched into an icefall, .  Sadly, his body may never be recovered. 


Perhaps ....

That guy that invented the internet ... what's his name ?   Al Gore ?

He claims the icefall on that mountain will likely melt next year.


gonzan said:

Don't get me started about walmart flip flops. 

 I hear ya. On every single hike I go on in Red Rock, many many many of the 20 somethings I encounter on the approach to a wall are wearing plain old fashioned "thongs" or flip flops as they are now referred to. Some of these approaches inolve a bit of scrambling and slippery areas of sluff. Often you can shee they are carrying a jug of water, have their harness on with climbing shoes 'binered to it, and a rope around their neck. Clearly no first aid gear to fix the feet when they slice em up.

December 2, 2020
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