by Bruce A. Smith
Two pairs of climbers are overdue from their scheduled hikes on the upper slopes of Mount Rainier above Paradise, park officials announced Tuesday afternoon – less that 24 hours after they joyfully declared that rescued snowshoer Yong C. Kim had returned home with his family and friends.
One overdue party was listed as camping in the snowfields at 10,000 feet near Camp Muir and another two-person team was endeavoring to summit. The Muir campers were scheduled back at Paradise on Sunday, January 15, and the summit team was due the following day, Monday, January 16.
Although concerned, park officials are not unduly worried as both parties are well-prepared for winter conditions and prolonged overnight stays. In fact, park spokesperson Patti Wold said that the groups had not been fully expected back on-time due to the severe weather conditions, and that prudent judgment would indicate that they dig in at their current location, wait out the storm, and descend to Paradise when better weather returns.
Nevertheless, some search and rescue teams have been dispatched – just hours after their successful efforts to bring missing snowshoer, Yong C Kim, into safety Monday night at 11 pm. However, as the current weather worsens and a major blizzard is expected to deposit several feet of snow tonight and tomorrow, the search has been restrained.
“A limited field search is underway, but putting searchers extensively on the mountain is not expected due to the risk involved including current severe weather, white-out conditions and high avalanche danger,” said Wold.
Also, the climbers may not be in any immediate danger.
“With the severe weather conditions over the (past) weekend, it is expected that the parties would be overdue,” said Wold. “Visitors to the upper mountain are advised to stop moving, dig in and wait for better weather during severe weather and white-out conditions.”
Drifts of up to 30 inches of snow piled onto the Mountain during the search for Mr. Kim, and a foot of snow has fallen since then. Forecasts of new accumulations in the Paradise region could reach four feet by Wednesday evening.
As the snow continues to fall, the road to Paradise will remain closed at Longmire today. It has been closed to visitors since Saturday due to the search for Kim coupled with the added difficulty of clearing the roads during a major blizzard.
© 2012 The Mountain News-WA