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Six climbers are missing and presumed dead on Mount Rainier after failing to return Friday afternoon.
The Seattle Timesreports that park officials located climbing gear and avalanche beacons in a debris field near Carbon Glacier, some 3,300 feet below the group’s last known location on 9,500 foot Liberty Ridge. A National Parks Service spokesman said that any fall from that height would leave “no viable chance of survival.”
The Liberty Ridge Route is considered one of the mountain’s more dangerous ascents. In 2013, only 129 out of 10,800 people who climbed Rainier attempted the route.
Veteran climber Matt Hegeman, who has climbed Rainier more than 50 times, has been identified as the leader of the group. Mark Mahaney, 26, of Saint Paul, Minnesota is also among the missing. The names of the other four climbers have not been released. The expedition, organized by Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International, consisted of two guides and four clients.
Aircraft continued to search the debris field over the weekend to no avail. As of Monday morning, the National Parks Service said that conditions are still too dangerous to send in a ground team.
The accident stands to be the second deadliest in Rainier’s history. In 1981, 11 people died in an ice fall on Ingraham Glacier. The last fatality on Liberty Ridge was recorded in 2011. In total, 89 people have died on the mountain since 1897.