Sixth climber identified in deadly Mount Rainier accident

Staff writerJune 3, 2014 

A 34-year-old Brooklyn resident was identified Tuesday as the sixth victim in last week’s climbing accident on Mount Rainier.

Erik Kolb’s family released a statement confirming the American Express finance manager was part of the climbing party, according to The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger.

“Erik was a smart, gentle and generous man whose warmth and kindness touched the lives of all who knew him,” his family wrote. “We will miss him sorely every day, and he’ll always be in our hearts.”

Kolb is survived by his wife, Lisa; his sister, Kirsten of Raleigh, North Carolina; and his parents, David and Pamela, of Westfield, New Jersey, according to The Star-Ledger.

He was part of a climbing party guided by Seattle’s Alpine Ascents International that Mount Rainier National Park officials believe perished on Liberty Ridge. While officials suspect the climbers were swept down the mountain by rock or ice fall, details of the accident might never be known, climbing ranger Peter Ellis said.

Ellis and two other climbing rangers searched the route Saturday, and he said they found no significant clues. They found boot tracks and an ice picket, neither of which could they confirm as belonging to the Alpine Ascents party.

The five previously identified climbers were guides Matt Hegeman, 38, and Eitan Green, 28; Mark Mahaney, a 26-year-old St. Paul, Minnesota, resident; John Mullally, 40, of Seattle, a longtime Microsoft employee; and Uday Marty, a 40-year-old Intel employee based in Singapore.

Their bodies are believed to be high on the Carbon Glacier in a place too treacherous for search parties to reach. Rock fall from Willis Wall is continuous during warmer months, and when temperatures drop, the search area likely is buried under feet of snow, Ellis said.

Rangers and others will keep looking for the remains of the six men in what the park refers to as a “continuous limited search,” Rainier spokeswoman Fawn Bauer said. This typically means that when the park has aircraft or climbing patrols in the area, they will look for signs of the climbers.

The party, led by Hegeman, was climbing Liberty Ridge last week and was last heard from at 6 p.m. 

Wednesday when the guides checked in via satellite phone. All was going well at the time, but when the group failed to return to the White River Campground on Friday, park rangers were notified and a search conducted.

Last week’s accident was the largest on Rainier since 1981, when an avalanche buried 11 climbers on Ingraham Glacier. The bodies of those climbers have not been recovered.

The tragedy was the second in two months for AAI. In April, five of its Sherpa guides were among 16 who were killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest.

Alpine Ascents, International Mountain Guides and Rainier Mountaineering Inc. each had one Liberty Ridge climb planned for June. Although the route is in good shape, all have canceled their planned trips.

“We felt it was too soon on the heels of this unfortunate event … and out of respect for the climbers, guides and families,” said Peter Whittaker of Rainier Mountaineering Inc.

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