Mount Rainier park rangers have suspended their search for a climber missing on Liberty Ridge above 14,000 feet, but his two companions have made it safely to Camp Schurman.
Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said 23-year-old climber Kyle Bufis went missing as his group of three was descending the mountain in high winds and low visibility. A Friday evening statement from Wold said the search will continue tomorrow morning.
Derek Gavelis and Mathew Wiech made it to the camp with park climbing rangers Friday afternoon. They will be debriefed.
Wold said searchers in a helicopter from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Army Reserve 214th Air Division still had not seen Bufis. A second air reconnaissance flight was underway late Friday.
Wold said the two climbers who made it to camp were tired but in good physical condition. They reported Bufis missing about 5:10 a.m. Friday when they got enough cellphone service to text a loved one. That person called the park service for help. It’s unclear what time the climber disappeared Thursday or whether the team reached the summit.
Winds up to 70 mph and low visibility were hindering the search Friday afternoon.
Liberty Ridge is a technical, dangerous and little-used route to the mountain’s summit. In 2013, 10,800 people registered to climb and only 129 used the Liberty Ridge Route, according to park statistics.
In May 2014, an avalanche swept six members of a climbing party on Liberty Ridge to their deaths. The accident, involving four climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents International, was the second-deadliest accident in the recorded history of the mountain. In 1981, 11 climbers were buried in an avalanche on the standard route.
According to park records, 26 people have died while on the Liberty Ridge route.