A Norwegian climber missing on Mount Rainier after getting caught in a severe storm over the weekend was identified Wednesday as an experienced climber who has summited some of the tallest mountains in the world.
A body believed to be that of Arvid Lahti, 58, was airlifted from Rainier’s southern slopes Wednesday afternoon. The body was taken to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office, which will determine the man’s identify.
Lahti’s Facebook page says he is the only Norwegian to climb 29,035-foot Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, from both sides in one year.
The summits were 364 days, 21 hours, 52 minutes apart, according to the Himalayan Database.
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Park officials presume Lahti died from hypothermia and exposure after he and his climbing partner sought shelter below a ridge near Gibraltar Ledges when the storm blew in Saturday.
Climbing rangers and rescuers had been trying to reach the missing climber since Sunday.
Four climbing rangers reached the body on foot Wednesday and crews were able to recover the body shortly before 5 p.m. using a helicopter from Olympia-based Northwest Helicopters.
The body was about 10,600 feet up the 14,411-foot mountain. The Gibraltar Ledges route, which is the standard winter route, was reopened Wednesday.
Lahti’s climbing partner, Monique Richard, a 41-year-old Canadian, was able to make her way to Camp Muir on Sunday with the help of other climbers on the mountain.
She was flown off Mount Rainier and is reported to be in stable condition. Park officials said Lahti appeared to have died before Richard started her descent.
Richard recounted the tragedy Wednesday in a Facebook post:
“We fell in hypothermia and I was sure that it was me who was going to die … but Arvid died Saturday morning in my arms … his last breath gave me the courage to intend reaching Camp Muir, and I was rescued by a special rescue team.”
The pair left Paradise on Thursday and spent Friday at Camp Muir. They left early Saturday for the summit but were unable to make it back before a storm hit.
Other climbers noticed unattended overnight gear at Camp Muir on Saturday and reported it. A search was launched Sunday just before Richard was spotted trying to descend Gibraltar Ledges alone.
She and Lahti were caught in a storm that included 83-mile-per-hour wind gusts, blowing snow and temperatures dropping into the single digits.
“Up high on Rainier in the winter time is a rough place to be in a storm,” Eric Simonson of Ashford-based International Mountain Guides said via email.
Simonson has climbed Rainier nearly 300 times in a variety of conditions. He’s climbed the highest point on each continent.
“No place to hide up there,” he said in his email.
Mount Rainier National Park climbing ranger Peter Ellis said the “tragic events” underscore that “it is always a good reminder to know the weather forecast before any climb and come prepared for any and all weather conditions.”
“Sunny weather at the start of your trip may deteriorate quickly,” he said.
Lahti would not be the first Everest record-setter to die on Rainier. In 1979, Willi Unsoeld, famous for a 1963 ascent of Everest that cost him nine toes, died during a March avalanche on Rainier.
In addition to climbing Mount Everest, Lahti, along with Richard, was part of a Seven Summits team that last year attempted to summit K2.
Located on the Pakistan-China border, K2 is the second highest mountain in world at 28,251 feet.
Lahti’s climbing resume included Makalu (27,825 feet) and Cho Oyu (26,906 feet) on the China-Nepal border, Ama Dablam (22,349 feet) in Nepal, Aconcagua (22,841 feet) in Argentina, Cotopaxi (19,347 feet) in Ecuador and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) in Tanzania.