St. Paul man among climbers missing on Mount Rainier - KMSP-TV

St. Paul man among climbers missing on Mount Rainier

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Photo taken at 5,400 feet on May 28, 2014. Flickr/Creative Commons/Joe Parks Photo taken at 5,400 feet on May 28, 2014. Flickr/Creative Commons/Joe Parks
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Officials in Washington state confirm a 26-year-old St. Paul man is among a group of six climbers who are presumed dead after failing to return from a trip to Mount Rainier.

On Sunday, a representative for Mark Mahaney's family told the Associated Press that the family recognizes the situation is grim; however, they do hope that Mahaney may have survived.

The climbing company, Alpine Ascents, notified park officials after the group failed to return as scheduled on Friday. Officials believe they may have fallen 3,300 feet in an area that is susceptible to ice and rock falls.

The group's last-known location was Liberty Ridge at 12,800 feet; however, officials say the conditions in the area are so treacherous that there are no immediate plans to attempt to recover the bodies.

"People are very understanding that we cannot risk another life at this point," Patti Wold, a Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman, said Sunday.

Mahaney's family said the Prior Lake High School graduate was an experienced climber who had reached the glaciated peak at 14,410 feet before; however, the route the group -- comprised of two guides and four climbers -- set out on is one of the most technical and physically grueling routes to the summit.

"He trained a lot; he really got into it," friend and fellow climber Evan Johnson told Fox 9 News. "He really focused, he basically lived for climbing."

The climbers had to meet certain prerequisites to attempt the trip, including being physically able to carry a 50-pound backpack on steep snow and icy slopes ranging from 30 to 50 degrees in slope.

The group last made contact at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, which is when the guides checked in with their Seattle-based employer via satellite phone. It's unclear whether the climbers were moving or camping when the accident occurred; however, searchers located camping and climbing gear and detected signals from avalanche beacons buried in the snow on the Carbon Glacier at 9,500 feet.

Officials still have not determined the cause of the fall, but said it may have been a rock fall or avalanche. The park's acting aviation manager said the group is likely buried, and the area will be checked periodically from the air in the coming weeks. As conditions change, a helicopter recovery could be possible.

The accident marks the worst at Mount Rainier since 1981, when 11 people were struck and killed by a massive ice fall on the Ingraham Glacier.

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