Body of climber recovered from Mount Rainier; second climber missing

LONGMIRE, Wash. (AP) - Rangers removed the body of a fallen climber from Mount Rainier early Friday but were unable to locate a second climber missing and feared dead on the difficult Liberty Ridge route.

Two others have died along the same climbing route on the north side of the 14,411-foot peak in the past month.

Michael Gauthier, supervisory climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, identified the dead climber as Luke Casady, 29, of Stevensville, Mont.

Missing was Ansel Vizcaya, 29, from the Missoula, Mont., area. Vizcaya is an employee of North Cascades National Park in northern Washington, but was climbing on his own time, Gauthier said.

Casady's wife, Callyn Casady, said Friday that her husband had scaled Mount Rainier three or four times previously, but had never taken the Liberty Ridge route.

She last talked with him at about 3 a.m. June 11. The couple has a 4-year-old son and was to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary July 3.

"He's a very, very passionate person," she said. "A very intense person. He doesn't do anything lightly."

Gauthier said Casady's body was recovered at the 9,000-foot elevation on Carbon Glacier below Liberty Ridge.

Rangers planned to continue aerial searches to try to locate Vizcaya, but Gauthier said it is unlikely he is still alive.

Although avalanche danger was extreme at the mountain, the Liberty Ridge route is "in wonderful climbing shape," he said.

"It's a challenging route and an accident on it can be very tragic, obviously, but we're not seeing the intense ice" that would make it especially treacherous, Gauthier said.

The climbers were reported overdue Tuesday, but rangers were not unduly concerned until late Wednesday because many climbers had been slowed by winds and heavy snow earlier in the week.

Despite the spate of accidents, Gauthier said he had not seen fewer climbers attempting the route.

"I suspect that some people did turn around, but oddly enough, some people might be drawn to this," he said.

A second pair of unidentified climbers called for assistance Thursday in descending from the 10,670-foot level on the Liberty Ridge route, saying they were unhurt but "in over their heads," Gauthier said.

One was 48 and the other 44, and one was from Fort McMurray, Alberta, and the other from New Hampshire, Gauthier said.

Because of the other search, rangers held off on sending a rescue team to the pair, who have food and fuel, Gauthier said.

"We're going to end up pulling them off, but it's not the priority right now. They're not in any mortal danger," Gauthier said Friday.

Park officials say more than 11,000 people try to climb Mount Rainier annually, including about 200 via Liberty Ridge.

Jon Cahill, 40, of Auburn, died June 3 after falling 200 feet on Liberty Ridge. Peter Cooley, 39, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, died May 17, two days after he tumbled down a steep icy slope of the ridge and hit his head on a rock spur.

An average of three people a year have died in summit attempts since 1990. Casady's death would be the 92nd, when record keeping began.


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