A horrific incident shook the climbing community this weekend after six climbers fell to their deaths on Mount Rainier. Though it has yet to be confirmed, the climbers, including guides Eitan Green and Matt Hegeman from Alpine Ascents International and their four clients, are believed to have fallen 3,000 feet from Liberty Ridge after the weather became unruly on Wednesday night. This was also the last time anyone had heard from the group, which sent out a message via satellite phone around 6 p.m.
The alarm was raised after the climbers did not return at their set time on Friday from their five-day expedition. The plan was to set out on Monday with the hopes of reaching the summit on Thursday. This gave the group a day to descend. The path to the summit the climbers had chosen to take was a difficult one; Liberty Ridge is considered one of the most advanced routes on a mountain that only about half of prospective climbers manage to successfully summit.
Due to environmental hazards and inclement weather, the search for the climbers has been halted. Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold is uncertain that the bodies of the team members will ever even be found. But the discovery of debris covering abandoned climbing gear, combined with detected pings from the climbers’ emergency beacons at the 9,000-foot level, are, at the moment, enough evidence to suggest that the group got caught in an avalanche and did not survive.
“This accident represents a horrific loss for our guide partners and the families and loved ones of every one of the climbers lost on the mountain,” Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Randy King told KOMO news.
“The climbing community is a small one and a close one and a loss of this magnitude touches many. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragic accident.”