SEATTLE – Park rangers returned to a glacier on Mount Rainier Saturday to search for a fourth victim of a series of winter storms, a day after recovering what they presume to be the second and third bodies.
The climbers — two parties of two — vanished during unrelenting storms on the 14,410-foot volcano in mid-January. The summer snowmelt last month revealed one of the bodies not far from the climbing route on the Muir snowfield — that of Mark Vucich, 37.
But there had been no sign of the others until Thursday, when a helicopter crew ferrying supplies to Camp Muir spotted a woman's body hanging over the edge of a large crevasse, buried in about 5 feet of snow, near the 8,200-foot level, Mount Rainier National Park spokesman Kevin Bacher said.
Climbing rangers arrived Friday to find a snow-buried campsite, with supplies belonging to several different people strewn about the bottom of the crevasse, he said. Aided by a helicopter, they recovered the woman's body Friday afternoon and discovered a sleeping bag in the snow that led them to a male victim.
Officials were awaiting a medical examiner's determination to confirm that they were two of the missing climbers from January. In addition to Vucich, of Agoura Hills, Calif., the missing were his friend Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta; Sork "Eric" Yang, 52, of Springfield, Ore.; and Seol Hee Jin, 52, of South Korea.
They were last seen by a climber who reported that all four were heading up the mountain as he descended it with the storms approaching. Yang and Jin were in the lead, followed by Vucich and Trojanowski, on a separate rope but following the same track.
"We have suspected that as things turned ugly up there they might have joined forces, and now we're certain that was the case," Bacher said.
The campsite is about one-quarter mile east of, and over a ridge from, the standard climbing route, which is likely why visitors to the mountain had not seen the woman's body earlier, Bacher said.
Though climbing gear from both groups appears to have been found together at the campsite, Vucich's body was found some distance away, and it wasn't clear if the fourth body would be in the immediate vicinity.
About a dozen climbing rangers spent Friday night at Camp Muir, at the 10,000-foot level, and were out early Saturday to carefully probe and dig in a grid pattern for signs of the last victim, Bacher said.
"It's always a positive thing to find someone after so long," Bacher said. "To come across a second body yesterday, they were pretty upbeat, and they were anxious to get back out there today."
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