Blizzard halts search for 4 missing on Rainier
Blizzard conditions Friday cut short a search for four people missing on Mount Rainier. It is hoped the search can resume Saturday.
MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK — Rescuers are hoping for better weather Saturday after a blizzard cut short searching on Friday for four people missing on Mount Rainier.
National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said five elite mountaineers spent the morning searching for two climbers and two campers who were due to return from their trips early in the week.
But conditions on Rainier, including 40-mph winds and zero visibility, forced them back down the mountain for the rest of the day.
A 10-member search team that went up on Thursday comprised highly skilled mountaineers who are familiar with the route and with techniques for avoiding avalanches, the Park Service said.
Rescuers included rangers and park staff, as well as members of Everett Mountain Rescue, Seattle Mountain Rescue, International Mountain Guides and Rainier Mountaineering Inc.
One team member who searched Thursday and Friday said they'd hoped to get a helicopter in, but conditions were too hazardous to fly.
"There was poor visibility, snowing hard, windy," and even teams on the ground couldn't see very far, he said.
He said avalanche conditions were very high. "It's not safe to continue in conditions like that," the team member said. "The park is doing everything they can given the present conditions."
Rangers say the two parties were well-equipped and, hopefully, have dug in to wait out the storm, but there was concern about their supplies.
The missing campers are Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego, and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta.
The climbers were identified Friday as Sork "Erik" Yang, 52, of Springfield, Ore., and Jin Seol Hee, of Korea.
Fay Vucich, Mark's stepmother, said he was well-equipped and had some outdoors experience.
She and Mark's father live in Auburn. They have never met Trojanowski and don't know how Mark knew her, she said earlier this week.
"My husband is too distraught to even talk," she said. "The Park Service has been incredible in calling us and telling us what they can do and what they can't.
"Mark is very knowledgeable about survival techniques — mostly self-taught, from going places with other mountain-climbing friends. They've got everything they need to survive something like this, but I don't know how many days. We're trying to stay optimistic."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Carol M. Ostrom
contributed to this report.