LONGMIRE, Wash. – A helicopter rescued two stranded climbers from Mount Rainier (search) on Saturday, two days after they called for help, but rangers held out little hope for a third man missing since an accident that killed his partner.
The two stranded climbers, Al Hancock and Bruce Penn, had been descending the difficult Liberty Ridge route along the north side of the 14,411-foot peak when they reported were unhurt but "in over their heads," said Mike Gauthier, supervisory climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park.
Rangers had held off on sending a rescue team and the National Guard (search) helicopter for the pair — who had food and fuel, and weren't in immediate danger — while they focused on two other climbers.
That pair, Ansel Vizcaya, 29, from the Missoula, Mont., area and his climbing partner, Luke Casady, 29, of Stevensville, Mont., also had been attempting the Liberty Ridge route. They were reported overdue on Tuesday.
Casady's body was recovered Friday and Vizcaya's backpack was found nearby. Rangers said they believe an avalanche swept Casady 4,000 feet to his death and also might have killed his partner.
Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said rangers would continue searching for Vizcaya by helicopter, although Gauthier said it was unlikely Vizcaya was still alive.
"If we don't spot him today, he's possibly under some snow if he was caught under an avalanche," Wold said Saturday.
Wold said climbers would be asked to look for any signs of Vizcaya.
Despite the recent accidents, Gauthier said he had not seen fewer climbers attempting the Liberty Ridge (search) route.
Park officials say more than 11,000 people try to climb Mount Rainier annually, including about 200 via Liberty Ridge.
An average of three people a year have died in summit attempts since 1990. Casady's death was the 92nd since record-keeping started in 1887.