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Four lost in forecast storm on Mt. Rainier

Search Continues For Mount Rainier Hikers
January 22, 2012
FOX News

Rescuers resumed Sunday a search for four missing hikers on Washington's Mount Rainier, but a park official said there has been "no sign of the overdue parties."

Crews Sunday would try "a possible air search and ground search," if weather permits, Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said in a statement.

Rescue efforts were suspended Friday as a snowstorm and 40 mph (65kph) winds moved in.

Two campers -- Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego, Calif., and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta -- were due off the mountain last Sunday, while two unnamed climbers from Springfield, Ore., had been due to return Monday.

Wold said that 26 rescuers tried again Saturday to look for the missing parties, but strong winds and ice prevented access to higher elevations.

The park has a helicopter on standby from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but so far conditions have not been good enough for flying.

Although both sets of missing hikers were said to be well-prepared and likely to have built shelter amid the vicious conditions, concerns were growing that their supplies were running low. Both parties ascended the mountain as a strong snow and ice storm pummeled northwestern Washington.


Mt. Rainier National Park
January 17, 2012
Overdue Parties Prepared for Winter Conditions
Two parties expected off the mountain over the last two days are overdue according to their original plans.

January 18, 2012
Mount Rainier Poised to Begin Search for Two Overdue Parties
The incident command team, lead by Park Ranger Kelly Bush, is planning to send field teams out once conditions become favorable. Efforts are currently focused on organizing a team of skilled skiers and climbers who have experience in negotiating the terrain to Camp Muir in difficult travel conditions.

January 19, 2012
Team of Elite Mountaineers Search for Overdue Parties on Mount Rainier
This morning, January 19, a team of ten is searching a portion of the intended route of the two overdue parties from Paradise up the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir, where they will overnight.

January 19, 2012
Update on Search Efforts
Today a team of ten searched from Paradise up the Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir without locating either of the parties.

January 20, 2012
Poor Weather Hinders Search for Overdue Parties
Searchers remain on standby to return to the search upon first signs of improved weather.

January 21, 2012
Search Continues for Overdue Parties on Mount Rainier
This morning teams searched areas of the Paradise Glacier, Alta Vista, Upper Stevens Canyon and Muir Snowfield and detected no sign of the overdue parties. Extreme weather continues to limit search operations.

January 22, 2012
Search Efforts Continue for Overdue Parties on Mount Rainier
The search for two overdue parties continues on Mount Rainier on Sunday, January 22. No sign of the missing parties has been detected to date.

January 23, 2012
Major Search Efforts Aided by Good Weather
A break between storms provided a weather window for significant ground and air operations in the search for two missing parties on Mount Rainier.


"Anatomy of the search for the four overdue hikers at Mount Rainier"

"Anatomy of the search for the four overdue hikers at Mount Rainier"
The Mountain News - WA
By Bruce A. Smith

As the search for four overdue hikers at Mount Rainier winds down after nearly two weeks of combing the slopes above Paradise, park spokesperson Kevin Bacher gave the Mountain News a comprehensive analysis of the rescue operations.

Please click our link to the blog The Mountain News - WA  "Serving those who live close to Mount Rainier in body or spirit", for a detailed description and lay analysis of the events leading up to the loss of four climbers and campers in the forecast winter storm that overtook many on a fateful mid-winter weekend in January 2012.

We shall continue to follow this tragedy. --Robert Speik


February 2, 2012
By Robert Speik
The Mt. Rainier searches have been suspended at this time, according to Park Service spokesman Kevin Bacher, with whom we talked on the telephone today, February 2, 2012.

The two climbers had registered and filled out a standard climbers' questionnaire. They were planning a "winter ascent" and were prepared to bivy. It is possible that they fell and were lost as the forecast storm developed.

The two campers were not required to fill out a gear list with their "overnight backcountry permit" but they signed in and were assumed to have been prepared for a single winter night out. It is possible that their camp was simply overwhelmed by heavy snow in the forecast storm and they may have been unable to make their way to safety. Read more .

Their cars were located at the trail head; their family members assisted the Search and Rescue briefings. Details of their Preparedness are not available at this time.



One body has been found, near the "trail"

Date: August 7, 2012
Contact: Patti Wold, PIO, 360-569-6701

On Monday, August 6, rapidly melting snow on the lower reaches of the Muir Snowfield revealed a male body at the 8,000' level, approximately 0.5 mile above Pebble Creek. It appeared that the body had been under snow for some time. A party descending from Camp Muir spotted the individual late yesterday within sight of the trail. The individual was brought down the mountain on a litter by park rangers today. His identity will be determined by the Pierce County Medical Examiner.

It is possible that the individual may be one of the four climbers lost during the January storms; however no additional evidence or bodies were found in the search area. Warm weather is expected to continue rapidly melting snow in the area over the next month or two, which may uncover evidence related to the missing climbers. The search for the four missing climbers is still active and ongoing on a limited basis. Searches are conducted during scheduled flights in the park and as crews are in the area. The park is interested in hearing from anybody that sees any items that may be associated with the missing climbers.



Jo Jo
Mountain climber
Lacey, WA
Aug 9, 2012 - 09:54pm PT
Two mountaineers, two snow campers, and three snowshoers went missing on Mt. Rainier over the MLK weekend (Jan 14-16). The snowshoers spent three days and two miserable nights in the blizzard in the lower reaches of the mountain. They somehow survived without tents, sleeping bags, or stoves. Two of them walked out on Monday; the other one was extricated from a deep valley (it took nine hours to get him out). The mountaineers and snow campers were never found despite several attempts via air and by foot.

Mark Vucich (one of the snow campers) was found this week at the 8,000 ft level (about half a mile above Pebble Creek) under melting snow.

His body was within view of the trail. He was identified yesterday at the Medical Examiners Office. We are hoping his partner, Michelle Trojanowski, will be found close by.

I have climbed between Paradise and Camp Muir several times since January in preparation for a summit attempt on July 4th. Each time I have passed through Pebble Creeke wondering how close Mark and Michelle may have been to finding their way down off Rainier. I am not surprised that Mark was found so close to Pebble Creek -- that is exactly where I thought he would be found. And, why do I think this . . .

Because, I was one of the two snowshoers who walked out on January 16th, leaving Mark, Michelle and two others on the mountain behind me. Each weekend I return to the mountain for training climbs and as I silently climb, I scan the ridges and snowfields for any sign of an abandoned campsite or equipment under melting snow. I have scanned the area above Pebble Creek several times and determined that if I was on the snowfield on January 14th, I most definitely would have tried heading down toward the safety of Sugar Mtn so I could dig a snow cave. A day never goes by when I don't feel grateful for my life and wonder how it is that some of us are just plucked from our lives so quickly and without warning, while others survive.

My regards and condolences to the family and friends of all four adventurers who never found their way home.
-Josephine (Jo) Johnson

Social climber
Aug 10, 2012 - 01:13am PT
hey there say, jo jo.... oh my... :(

may you feel comforted in these memories of surviving, somehow, in spite of the sad loss of the others that came to the mt... :(

thank you for sharing your story and your continued thoughts on it... may your future trails continually be blessed, that you may help others through their burdens of such, as well...

my condolences, too, to all the families of the lost... thank you for your very heartfelt and touching post...god bless...

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA
Aug 10, 2012 - 01:32am PT
Jo - thanks for the first person account. Sounds like horrific conditions and glad you made it out in one piece. RIP to those who weren't able to make it down.

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Aug 10, 2012 - 10:03am PT
I was on the search for the snowshoers in January. We knew that one was possibly injured and possibly lost. The first two that walked out were never reported missing. They fortunately had a snow shovel with them and dug a cave for their first night out. They didn't know how to construct one, but managed to stay out of the wind. The entrance was higher, not lower, than the area where they slept, so the cold air settled on them.

They were in excellent shape when they walked out.

One of my teammates was the medic for the other gentleman snowshoer that spent a couple of unexpected nights on the mountain. The first contact with the group seemed to be very encouraging that he was expected to walk out the first day, but as time passed, it became clear that he would need assistance.

So much snow fell over those days that travel became very slow - wallowing on snowshoes, wallowing on skis, snowmobiles are generally not allowed, the snowcat was very slow, avalanche danger very high and limiting how you could travel. Wind was an issue as you approached Muir. The days I spent on the search were extremely windy up high, but not bad at Paradise. You need excellent navigation skills walking around in the clouds, with the wind, with 9 feet of new, light snow.

No one has forgotten the four missing climbers. This month, my team is scheduled to go back and continue looking. All the MRA teams in the area are scheduling training and search missions in the area to look for them. This has happened all summer, and will continue until late autumn, when the new snow starts to pile up. It was a cool early summer, so the snowpack stayed thick much longer than normal this year. I was surprised at how high the snowpack was since the snowfall was not extreme, but the melting has been slower this year. 20114-5-2011&utm-medium=email



Two more bodies have been found on the Paradise Glacier

Mount Rainier National Park News Release
September 8, 2012
For Immediate Release
Kevin Bacher, Public Information Officer

Recovery on the Paradise Glacier

Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park recovered two bodies from the Paradise Glacier late yesterday afternoon, probably members of a group of four climbers that went missing in January. The body of a third climber was found nearby in August. Search efforts are continuing today.

On Thursday, September 6, while conducting routine resupply operations to Camp Muir by helicopter, a body was spotted hanging over the edge of a large crevasse on the upper Paradise Glacier southeast of Anvil Rock. In addition, camping and climbing gear could be seen strewn across the bottom of the crevasse. The body was partially buried under about 5 feet of snow and clearly had been in place for some time. The site is about a quarter mile east of the standard climbing route and on the other side of a ridge, at about 8,200 feet elevation.

On Friday, September 7, climbing rangers retrieved the body of a female individual from the crevasse with the help of an AS350B3 helicopter, on detail to Mount Rainier from Denali National Park and operated by Temsco Helicopters Inc. Shortly thereafter, a male body was recovered from under the snow nearby. Both individuals were transported by ambulance to the Pierce County Medical Examiner, who will determine their identities and causes of death.

Four climbers went missing in this vicinity during January storms. Exactly one month ago, on August 6, the body of Mark Vucich was found near the climbing route on the Muir Snowfield, about half a mile above Pebble Creek at about 8,000 feet elevation. The bodies recovered yesterday are likely members of the same group of climbers. Identification will be confirmed by the Medical Examiner.

Rangers are returning to the site today, both on foot and by helicopter, to further investigate what appears to be a large campsite buried under the snow on the edge of the crevasse, in hopes of finding clues to explain what happened and, ultimately, lead to the fourth missing climber.


September 10, 2012
For Immediate Release
Kevin Bacher, Public Information Officer

Identity confirmed of victim found on Paradise Glacier
The Pierce County Medical Examiner has confirmed that one of the bodies recovered on the Paradise Glacier Friday afternoon is that of Michelle Trojanowski. A male body was found nearby; however, his identity has not yet been confirmed.

Trojanowski is the second member of a party of two that went missing in mid-January during a winter camping trip on the Muir Snowfield. The body of Mark Vucich was found on August 16 near the Camp Muir
climbing route at about 8,000 feet elevation. Trojanowski was found on the edge of a large crevasse near the top of the Paradise Glacier, at about 8,200 feet elevation and less than a mile northeast of where Vucich
was found.

A second party of two went missing at the same time as Vucich and Trojanowski. Sork Yang and Seol Hee Jin, a male and female climbing team, had registered for a summit attempt and were last seen ascending a
short distance ahead of Vucich and Trojanowski.

Trojanowski’s body was spotted by helicopter during a routine resupply trip to Camp Muir on Thursday, September 6. Searchers scoured the vicinity on Friday and Saturday, turning up the second body and some
climbing and camping gear. The body of a fourth climber was not found.

The search will remain active but limited during scheduled flights and as crews are in the area. The park is interested in hearing from anybody who sees any items that may be associated with the missing climbers.



A final word?

Jo Jo
Mountain climber

Lacey, WA
Sep 14, 2012 - 01:43pm PT
Seamstress . . . I am going to the Mountain Festival in Ashford this weekend with Jay; camping overnight tomorrow night. We were thinking of climbing up to the Paradise Glacier and photographing one last time before the summer weather bails on us. I'm glad there is still six weeks of "good weather" left to try and find the last climber; although my personal feeling is that she [Seol Hee Jin] is in the crevasse Michelle was found in. From what I gather, there was a false floor about 40-50 feet down the crevasse with fresh blocks of ice wedged in the narrow part of the gap. There is a big possibility that she slid into the crevasse before the ice dislodged and formed that false floor. I know that an intensive search of the area was done last week and they couldn't find her. I find it hard to believe that she would have been anywhere but close to the others . . . in that kind of weather, that's where I would have felt safe. Will you be at the Festival? If you are, please come and tell me who you are -- I would love to give you a big hug :) 20114-5-2011&utm-medium=email



A suggested minimum standard news advisory for all backcountry travelers

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Oregon to plan for the unexpected.  Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, insulation from the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a map and compass and optional inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them, and a charged ordinary cell phone and/or a $100.00 SPOT-2 GPS Satellite Messenger. Carry the traditional personal "Ten Essentials Systems" in a day pack sized for the season and the forecast weather.

Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. If you become lost or stranded, mark your location and stay still or move around your marked location to stay warm. Do not try to find your way, becoming exhausted or worse yet - wet. Wait for rescuers.



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.



See yonder height! 'Tis far away -- unbidden comes the word "Impossible!"

"Not so," says the mountaineer.  "The way is long, I know; its difficult -- it may be dangerous."

"It's possible, I'm sure; I'll seek the way, take counsel of my brother mountaineers,
and find out how they have reached similar heights and learned to avoid the dangers."

He starts (all slumbering down below); the path is slippery - and may be dangerous too. 
Caution and perseverance gain the day
-- the height is reached! and those beneath cry, "Incredible! 'Tis superhuman!"

This is a passage we found on page 161 of "Scrambles Amongst the Alps" by Edward Wymper,
first published in 1871 and reprinted 1981 by Ten Speed Press, Berkley, CA.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

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