Citing dangerous conditions, Mount Rainier National Park officials said Sunday that there are no immediate plans to recover the bodies of six climbers who likely fell thousands of feet to their deaths in the worst alpine accident on the mountain in decades.
Continuous ice fall and rock fall make the area too dangerous for rescuers, and “there’s no certainty that recovery is possible given the location,” park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. The area will be checked periodically by air in the coming weeks and months, she added.
Park officials believe the group fell 3,300 feet from their last known whereabouts of 12,800 feet on Liberty Ridge.
“It’s inconceivable that anyone survived that,” Wold said Sunday. It’s unknown whether a rock fall, avalanche or other factors caused their fall, she said, adding that “we don’t even know if they were moving or if they were camping.”
Glenn Kessler, the park’s acting aviation manager, said “they are most likely buried,” making recovery efforts even more challenging. “We may or may not be able to recover them.”
Officials have not released the names of those who died, but friends and others on Sunday gathered at the 14,410-foot glaciated peak about 90 miles southeast of Seattle.
Rob Mahaney told The Associated Press that his 26-year-old nephew, Mark Mahaney, of St. Paul, Minnesota, was among those presumed dead. He said the climber’s father and brother flew to Seattle on Saturday after learning what happened.