The body of a 52-year-old Seattle man was removed from a crevasse on the upper slopes of Mount Rainier on Wednesday, a day after a stumble in an inopportune place cost him his life.
Lee F. Adams, a microbiologist, was dragged into a crevasse along with the rest of the climbing party Tuesday when the last of the four climbers on the rope caught a crampon on the ice while descending the mountain.
“He took a lively step off a snow bridge, caught a crampon and fell,” park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said of the climber who fell. “It’s sad that such a tiny little human error would have such dire consequences.”
The climber was unable to stop his slide and, as he picked up speed, the other climbers to whom he was tethered were one by one pulled off the route. They slid about 100 feet down a 45-degree pitch before being swallowed by the 35-foot-deep crevasse.
Two landed on a false floor and were not seriously hurt. The third, a 19-year-old man, injured his leg.
Adams was the lead climber on the rope and the last to fall into the crevasse.
The names of the surviving climbers were not released, but Taylor said they were a father and his 19- and 16-year-old sons, all of whom were friends of Adams.
Adams was the third fatality on Rainier since June 5 and is the 98th known climber to perish on the mountain.
The surviving climbers climbed out of the crevasse about 13,000 feet up the mountain on the Emmons Glacier and went to the ranger’s cabin at Camp Schurman, 9,440 feet above sea level. They arrived about 3 p.m. and reported the accident.
By Wednesday morning a helicopter was able to drop two climbing rangers on the 14,411-foot summit of the mountain so they could find and recover Adams’ body. The helicopter also dropped rangers at Camp Schurman to hike off the mountain with the two uninjured climbers.
The injured 19-year-old climber was flown to the south side of the mountain and then taken to the incident command center at Longmire. He declined medical treatment for his injury, Taylor said.
Adams, a native of Maine, enjoyed climbing recreationally for the past 30 years and made numerous ascents of Rainier. His brother, Ellis Adams, told KIRO-TV he was “extremely safety-conscious, very careful.”
Ellis Adams said there was nobody to blame for the fatal fall.
“It was an accident, pure and simple,” he said.
Adams and his party were climbing the Emmons Glaciers route to the summit, the second-most used route to the summit.
Climbing rangers said the routes are in good condition, which is typical this time of year. The guide services continue to operate as normal and one guide, George Dunn of International Mountain Guides, plans to make his 500th summit Friday on the Disappointment Cleaver route, the most used way up the mountain.
The three fatalities on the mountain this summer involved independent climbers.
“We have had a lot of fatalities on the mountain this year,” Taylor said. “But if you look at all three, you see that each is different. This is not indication that the mountain is not in good condition.”
On July 4, 57-year-old Eric Lewis of Duvall disappeared after he apparently unclipped from a line while trying to reach the summit with two other climbers.
Searchers found Lewis’ backpack, climbing harness and snow shovel at 13,600 feet, and a snow cave at 13,800. His body has not been recovered.
On June 5, Mark Wedeven, 29, of Olympia, disappeared after he was hit by an avalanche. Climbing the mountain alone on a day when climbing rangers and guides deemed the upper mountain unsafe, Wedeven was at 12,000 feet when he was swept away. His body has not been recovered. The slide hit 10 other climbers and three had to be dug out of the snow.
This year’s deaths end a four-year run without a climbing fatality.
From 1998 to 2005 there was an average of 0.18 fatalities per 1,000 climbers. The park’s climbing program was honored by the National Park Service last year for its safety run on the upper mountain.
The climbing rangers, the work of the three guide services and increased education for climbers were all cited as reasons for the long stretch without a fatality.
Staff writers Stacey Mulick and Jeffrey P. Mayor contributed to this report.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497