High winds Tuesday kept a helicopter rescue crew from reaching a climber presumed dead after getting caught in a storm on Mount Rainier over the weekend.
A light-duty helicopter tried to land at Camp Muir but could not handle blustery 22-mile-per-hour winds and gusts up to 38 mph.
“One of the other big problems was the direction the wind was coming,” park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. “Wind was coming over the helicopter and making an eddy below it.”
Officials said the helicopter, a Hughes 530F, cannot handle steady winds above 40 mph or gusts of 17 mph.
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The crew will try again Wednesday (March 30). Winds at 10,188-foot Camp Muir are expected to be 9 to 14 mph then, according to the National Weather Service.
The 58-year-old Norwegian climber is presumed dead of hypothermia and exposure after being caught in a storm Saturday while descending the Gibraltar Ledges route, the standard winter route.
He has not been identified.
Until searchers can reach the climber, who is around 10,600 feet up the mountain, the park has temporarily closed the Gibraltar Ledges route.
The mountaineer’s partner, a 41-year-old Canadian woman, was airlifted off the mountain Monday and was in stable condition Tuesday.
The pair left Paradise on Thursday and spent Friday night at Camp Muir, according to their permits. Like most climbers on 14,411-foot Mount Rainier, the team left for the summit in the early morning hours Saturday.
Other climbers noticed unattended overnight gear at Camp Muir on Saturday, and a search was launched Sunday.
The Canadian woman was spotted descending the route alone, and fellow climbers helped her down to the public shelter at Camp Muir.
Park officials said the climbers were caught overnight in the storm and tried to hunker down below a ridge against strong winds, snow and frigid temperatures.
Temperatures stayed in the teens Saturday night and dipped to 6 degrees early Sunday. More than a foot of snow fell, and winds gusted into the 40s throughout the night.
A peak wind of 83 mph blew through about 1 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Norwegian climber is believed to have died from exposure.
A search crew spotted him Monday but was unable to reach him. They said he was unresponsive.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653