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Mt. Rainier hiker dies; 2 await rescue

June 11, 2008|From the Associated Press

LONGMIRE, WASH. — A man on a Mt. Rainier day hike died Tuesday and his wife and another hiker were waiting to be rescued after the group got caught in a blizzard, officials at the national park said.

The three spent Monday night and early Tuesday trapped on the Muir snowfield before one hiker reached Camp Muir, a staging area for climbers high on the volcano's flank. From there, he directed rescuers to the other hikers, one of whom died at the camp.

Two helicopters were standing by to bring the hikers off the mountain, but the weather did not improve enough to attempt an evacuation by Tuesday evening.

The effort was put off at least until this morning, weather permitting, park spokesman Kevin Bacher said. Camp Muir is at about 10,000 feet on the 14,410-foot mountain.

Three doctors, clients of a climbing concessionaire in the park, were at Camp Muir with the two surviving hikers, who were suffering from frostbite and hypothermia but were in stable condition, Bacher said.

"Right now, the best place for them to be is sheltered at Camp Muir, rather than taking the chance of exposing them to try to carry them down the mountain," said ranger Sandi Kinzer. "Since they are safe and stable where they are, we'll wait until we get a weather window to get them off the mountain."

Kinzer and Bacher declined to release the hikers' names, saying park officials were having difficulty contacting the hikers' families.

The three hikers were described as two men and a woman in their early 30s, all from Bellevue, east of Seattle.

All three were experienced in the outdoors, and two had reached the summit of Rainier previously, Bacher said.

After a winter of heavy snowfall that forced repeated closure of mountain passes, unseasonably cold conditions have continued long into spring in Washington's Cascade Range.

Paradise, an area on the mountain that is a popular jumping-off point for the trail to Camp Muir, received 2 feet of fresh snow overnight, with 5-foot drifts at the camp, Bacher said.

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