2 climbers rescued at 12,000 feet from Mount Rainier

Two climbers were successfully rescued at 12,000 feet from Mount Rainier on Friday, despite dangerous conditions on the mountain.

The National Park Service (NPS) announced the rescue Monday, saying two climbers were rescued by helicopter from the Kautz Climbing Route, located on the south face of Rainier. The duo were climbing the Kautz Glacier on Wednesday, May 11, but ran into some issues with the weather.

At 8:10 p.m., they called 911 to let authorities know their location: stopped at 12,800 feet—nearly 2.5 miles up—just below the Wapowety Cleaver. The two said they did not need help yet.

They called again the next morning around 7:30 a.m., and said they were planning a descent down the Disappointment Cleaver Route, located on the east face of the mountain. National Park rangers tracked their location through cell phone signal.

At 10:30 a.m., just hours later, they called and reported one of them fall into a large crevasse and hurt their arms and legs. The climber who fell was able to reach his partner and authorities with his cell signal, but they were not able to self-rescue, NPS said.

Rescue crews could not deploy due to terrain and inclement weather, so they planned for an aerial response when conditions permitted.

NPS climbing rangers were able to attempt a rescue the morning of May 13, two days after the climber fell into the crevasse. Heavy and erratic winds battered the helicopter, forcing them to pull back. Several hours later, they returned to survey the area, and were able to rescue the first climber by hoist.

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Later in the afternoon, the helicopter returned and dropped off four rangers at 13,000 feet on Rainier. They descended to the crevasse, battling deep snow, strong winds and limited visibility, NPS said. They found the incident site and pulled the second climber more than 80 feet back up to the surface. The climber was rescued by helicopter.

According to NPS, the Kautz Glacier route is the third-most popular climbing route on Mount Rainier, but is also a "step up in commitment and difficulty" compared to routes like Disappointment Cleaver and Emmons-Winthrop. Roughly 460 climbers attempt the route every year, and 52% are able to reach the summit.