The search for a missing Mount Rainier climber from Utah was suspended Saturday afternoon after crews searching by helicopter spotted the body of a deceased male climber near the mountain’s summit.
Climbing rangers were working Saturday to retrieve the body. Although the deceased subject matches the description of 25-year-old Kyle Bufis, missing since Thursday night, authorities said that confirmation of identity will come from the Pierce County Medical Examiner.
Bufis was a member of an independent three-person climbing team Thursday when he went missing near the mountain’s Liberty Saddle. He was climbing the challenging Liberty Ridge route on the north flank of Mount Rainier.
Two other members of the climbing party, Derek Gavelis and Mathew Wiech, descended to Camp Schurman on their own late the next day. Both were tired but in good condition, Mount Rainier officials said.
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A pair of helicopters led the search Saturday, focused on a spot where the Winthrop and Emmons glaciers meet, according to Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patricia Wold.
Three climbing rangers were aboard a Chinook helicopter from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 214th Air Division, conducting a visual aerial search.
A helicopter from Northwest Helicopters searched for signals from an avalanche beacon Bufis was believed to be carrying. King County provided the avalanche beacon receiver.
Wold said Bufis was part of a three-climber team when he went missing during extreme weather. The trio had finished climbing Liberty Ridge, a seldom-climbed route on the north flank of 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. The group was descending during high winds and low visibility when Bufis went missing.
Liberty Ridge is a technical, dangerous route to the mountain’s summit. In 2013, 10,800 people registered to climb and only 129 used the Liberty Ridge Route, according to park statistics.
In May 2014, an avalanche swept six members of a climbing party on Liberty Ridge to their deaths. The accident, involving four climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents International, was the second-deadliest accident in the recorded history of the mountain. In 1981, 11 climbers were buried in an avalanche on the standard route.
According to park records, 26 people have died while on the Liberty Ridge route.