Searchers on Tuesday failed to find an Olympia man believed killed in an avalanche early Saturday on Mount Rainier.
Conditions improved enough Tuesday morning for two rescue rangers to look for 29-year-old Mark Wedeven, park spokesman Kevin Bacher said.
Rangers Glenn Kessler and Tom Payne cautiously searched for Wedeven along the Ingraham Direct route, on the southeastern face of the upper mountain.
“They have been searching slowly and methodically because of the avalanche conditions, but so far they have not found anything,” Bacher said.
Searchers had to contend with increasing winds during the day, with gusts hitting 46 miles per hour about 2 p.m. The winds came after 2 feet of new snow fell on the upper mountain since the weekend, creating drifts up to 5 feet deep.
The conditions kept other climbers off the mountain Tuesday, Bacher said.
Park officials now consider this a recovery search and not a rescue, as Wedeven is believed to be dead, Bacher said. Avalanche victims usually succumb to injuries, hypothermia or suffocation within 30 minutes of being trapped.
But, Bacher said, park officials want to give his family closure. Wedeven’s family on Monday identified him as the likely missing person. He was among 11 climbers caught in an avalanche on the Ingraham Glacier about 4:45 a.m. Saturday.
Wedeven grew up in Bremerton, graduating from Olympic High School in 1999, and then eventually moving to Olympia.
With a passion for climbing, Wedeven had climbed Mount Rainier numerous times, said his father, David Wedeven in an interview with KIRO-TV.
Bacher said Wedeven’s car was found at Paradise, and other climbers said they saw a man matching Wedeven’s description on that section of mountain at the time of the slide.
Saturday’s slide came down on the climbers as they were attempting to reach the 14,411-foot summit. The climbers were on the Ingraham Direct route, when the large slab slide broke free at 12,700 feet elevation and came down 1,500 feet.
If he died in the avalanche, Wedeven would be the 96th known mountaineering death in Rainier history.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com /adventure
The Associated Press contributed to this report.