Climbing Deaths Underscore Danger of Mount Rainier
ASHFORD, Wash. (AP) _ The death of three mountain climbers in an avalanche on Mount Rainier will probably attract even more thrillseekers to a peak that looks lovely but sometimes acts like a ″devil that shows pity on no one,″ National Park officials say.
″News like this tends to bring more people to the mountain,″ said Bill Jensen, the park’s chief ranger. ″It’s a very dangerous, hazardous route and that’s what attracts people - the thrill of danger.″
The bodies of Craig Loyal Adkison, 37, of Kirkland; David Kellokoski, 30, of Tahoe-Paradise, Calif., and Greg Remmick, 32, of Citrus Heights, Calif., were recovered by helicopter Friday from the 14,410-foot mountain.
They had been scheduled to finish their climb of the treacherous Liberty Ridge route up the mountain’s north face on May 14. The search began for the three Tuesday, and their bodies were spotted from the air Thursday.
The deaths brought to 54 the number of climbers who have died on the dormant volcano since 1898, and another 24 have perished on lesser peaks and slopes nearby, said Cy Hentges, a spokesman for Mount Rainier National Park.
Officials at Mount Rainier National Park stressed the mountain’s perilous, unpredictable nature and worried that the latest deaths would attract thrill- seeking climbers to it.
″Let’s realize that the American Everest team trained on it,″ Hentges said. ″That should tell you something. It’s on a miniature scale, but it provides anything and everything that Everest does, except it’s not that high.
″You can walk up sometimes, roped, with proper equipment but in shorts, but all it takes is one storm to come in - and this has happened many times - to kill people within half an hour of a road system. It has killed children on what seems like a gentle slope. It’s something that can become very angry.
″It looks so lovely and so beautiful, and yet it can be a devil that shows pity on no one.″
Hentges said bad weather and unstable fresh snow probably caused the three to fall 2,000 feet to their deaths in an avalanche. Their bodies were recovered from an avalanche chute at the 10,000-foot level by a helicopter equipped with a grappling hook that snagged the rope connecting them and carried them to a safer spot.
About 8,000 people attempt Mount Rainier each year, most of them up the less steep and glaciated south side, and about half make it.
To brave the Liberty Ridge route, climbers must be very strong and well- prepared for bad weather, Hentges said.
Everest veteran Lou Whittaker, who has run the only guide service on the peak for decades and that on the southerly route, made six attempts on Liberty Ridge before making it to the summit, Hentges said.
″If weather’s coming in, you have to say it’s not safe and turn around,″ he said.
″There is a point of no return,″ Hentges added, ″when you must continue to the top, and if you hit bad weather, you can get in real trouble.″