LONGMIRE – Rangers held out little hope Friday they would find a missing Mount Rainier climber alive after the body of his fallen companion was recovered from a glacier.
The two climbers had been attempting the difficult Liberty Ridge route on the north side of the 14,411-foot peak, where two others have died in recent weeks.
Michael Gauthier, supervisory climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, identified the dead climber as Luke Casady, 29, of Stevensville, Mont.
Missing was Ansel Vizcaya, 29, of the Missoula, Mont., area. Vizcaya is an employee of North Cascades National Park in Washington but was climbing on his own time, Gauthier said.
Casady’s wife, Callyn Casady, said Friday that her husband had scaled Mount Rainier three or four times before but had never taken the Liberty Ridge route.
She last talked with him at about 3 a.m. June 11. The couple have a 4-year-old son and were to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary July 3.
“He’s a very, very passionate person,” she said. “A very intense person. He doesn’t do anything lightly.”
Gauthier said Casady’s body was recovered early Friday at the 9,000-foot elevation on the Carbon Glacier below Liberty Ridge.
Rangers planned to continue aerial searches for Vizcaya, but Gauthier said it was unlikely he will be found alive.
Although avalanche danger was extreme on the mountain, the Liberty Ridge route was “in wonderful climbing shape” this week, he said.
“It’s a challenging route, and an accident on it can be very tragic, obviously, but we’re not seeing the intense ice” that would make it especially treacherous, Gauthier said.
Despite the spate of accidents, Gauthier said not many climbers appear to have been discouraged.
“I suspect that some people did turn around, but oddly enough, some people might be drawn to this,” he said.
Rangers hope to rescue a second pair of climbers by helicopter on Saturday, Gauthier said.
Those two climbers, identified by Mount Rainier officials as Al Hancock and Bruce Penn, called for assistance Thursday while descending from the 10,670-foot level on Liberty Ridge, saying they were not injured but were “in over their heads,” Gauthier said.
Hancock, 44, is from Fort McMurray, Alberta, and Penn, 48, is from Connecticut, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said.
Rangers held off sending a rescue team to the pair – who had food and fuel, and weren’t in immediate danger – because they needed to focus on the other search.
Park officials say more than 11,000 people try to climb Mount Rainier annually, including about 200 via Liberty Ridge.
Jon Cahill, 40, of Auburn died June 3 after falling 200 feet on Liberty Ridge. Peter Cooley, 39, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, died May 17, two days after he tumbled down an icy slope on the ridge and hit his head on a rock spur.
An average of three people a year have died in summit attempts since 1990. Casady’s death would be the 92nd since 1887, when records were first kept