By Bruce A. Smith
A climber became separated from his group and lost Thursday night while descending from the summit of Mount Rainier.
Kyle Bufis, 23, was in the company of two mountaineering companions, according to Information Specialist Patti Wold of the National Park Service, and went missing at approximately 9 pm at about 14,000 feet, just beneath the summit. The group was reportedly buffeted by extreme weather and high winds.
News of the incident reached park officials at approximately 5 am Friday and they dispatched climbing rangers and aerial reconnaissance. Wold reported that Bufis, became separated on the upper part of the Emmons Glacier in the Liberty Ridge area, a notoriously treacherous spot on the east side of Mount Rainier.
Bufis’ companions, Derek Gavelis and Mathew Wiech, hiked down to Camp Schurman at 10,000 feet on their own accord Friday, and met with park climbing rangers. Officials report that both mountaineers are tired, but in good physical condition. Officials plan to debrief the climbers there.
The NPS launched multiple air reconnaissance missions on Friday, and two rescue rangers were deployed near the summit, expecting to hike down to the spot Bufis was last seen. Weather continued to be severe, with wind gusts to 70 mph.
However, the search for Bufis was suspended as dusk fell Friday, and will resume Saturday morning. Search efforts will focus in the vicinity of the confluence of the Winthrop and Emmons glaciers.
Picture of one of the rescue rangers surveilling the upper Emmons Glacier from the starboard door of a helicopter. Note the NPS decal on his helmet. Picture courtesy of the National Park Service