Searchers looking for a climber lost on Mount Rainier were unable to find the man Friday and planned to start the search again at first light today.
“The search will continue with both climbing teams and teams in the air, weather permitting,” said Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Lee Taylor.
Eric Lewis, a 57-year-old climber from Duvall, unclipped his rope and vanish-ed near Mount Rainier’s summit on Thursday, Tayor said.
Lewis was ascending the Gibralter Ledges Route with two partners when they stopped to rest and regroup, she said.
The three were dealing with winds upward of 40 mph and visibility so poor they could not see one another, Taylor said.
Lewis was last on their rope line. When they pulled the rope, they discovered Lewis had unclipped it and was nowhere to be seen, Taylor said.
The group was almost at the 14,000-foot level of the mountain. Mount Rainier’s peak is at 14,410 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Crevasses are widespread over that part of the mountain, Taylor said.
The two climbers “immediately established anchors in the snow and swept the length of the rope across the slope below them, but were unable to find their climbing partner,” the Park Service reported.
The two returned to Camp Muir at 10,200 feet, and climbing rangers began a search. The rangers climb-ed to the summit but found no signs of Lewis. Searchers later found his backpack and shovel at 13,600 feet and a snow cave at 13,800 feet.
Two helicopters – one from Fort Lewis and another from a private company – flew for several hours Friday, but turned back as the weather worsened.
Staff writers Danny Serna and Rob Carson contributed to this report.