Body found at Mount Rainier believed to be missing Puyallup man

Searchers at Mount Rainier National Park on Monday recovered a body believed to be a Puyallup man who had been missing since getting caught in a storm Saturday night.

The body, found about noon at the head of Edith Creek, was turned over to the Pierce County Medical Examiner's office. The name of the man was not released Monday.

The unidentified 37-year-old man was on a snowshoe trip and planned to spend the night at Camp Muir, at the mountain’s 10,188-foot elevation. But he was forced to descend because of a formidable winter storm, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said Monday.

Two people took him into their tent and snow cave at Panorama Point at 6,800 feet, but the extreme conditions collapsed one wall, forcing the three people to make their way back to the visitor center at Paradise.

During the descent the Puyallup man was separated several times from the other two, Wold said. Finally, near Edith Creek, the two others could not find the Puyallup man. They reported him missing Sunday.

“They don’t know if he intentionally peeled off or what,” Wold said. “He just wasn’t there.”

Wold said there were few details because searchers still were debriefing with the incident commander.

The park worked with Nordic Ski Patrol members to conduct a search Sunday. Monday’s ground and air search involved about 30 people.

Members of Tacoma, Everett, Seattle and Olympic mountain rescue units did the ground search. The U.S. Army Reserve 214th Aviation Battalion from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and park climbing rangers aboard conducted the air search.

Conditions on the mountain during the weekend were cold and windy with temperatures in the low teens. Temperatures at Camp Muir fell as low as minus-2 degrees at midnight Monday.

About 20 inches of snow fell during the storm and avalanche conditions were considerable, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.

Because some park staff members were redirected to help with the search and rescue, the resulting shortage of staff forced the closure of the road from Longmire to Paradise.

Wold said the plan is to reopen the road Tuesday (Dec. 30), if the weather permits.