LONGMIRE, Wash. – Rangers removed the body of a fallen climber from Mount Rainier on Friday but could not find a second climber missing and feared dead on the difficult Liberty Ridge route.
Rangers planned to continue aerial searches for the missing climber, 29-year-old Ansel Vizcaya, but it was unlikely he was still alive, said Michael Gauthier, supervisory climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park (search).
Vizcaya, from Missoula, Mont., works at North Cascades National Park (search) in northern Washington, but was climbing on his own time, Gauthier said.
Gauthier identified the dead climber as Luke Casady, 29, of Stevensville, Mont.
Two others have died along the same climbing route on the north side of the 14,411-foot peak in the past month.
Casady's wife, Callyn Casady, said Friday her husband had scaled Mount Rainier three or four times before but had never taken the Liberty Ridge route.
"He's a very, very passionate person," she said. "A very intense person. He doesn't do anything lightly."
She said she last talked with him at about 3 a.m. June 11. The couple has a 4-year-old son and was to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary July 3.
Gauthier said Casady's body was recovered at the 9,000-foot elevation on Carbon Glacier, below Liberty Ridge.
Although avalanche danger was extreme at the mountain, the Liberty Ridge route is "in wonderful climbing shape," he said.
"It's a challenging route and an accident on it can be very tragic, obviously, but we're not seeing the intense ice" that would make it especially treacherous, Gauthier said.
The climbers were reported overdue Tuesday, but rangers were not overly concerned until late Wednesday because many climbers had been slowed by winds and heavy snow earlier in the week.
Despite the spate of accidents, Gauthier said he had not seen fewer climbers attempting the route.
"I suspect that some people did turn around, but oddly enough, some people might be drawn to this," he said.
A second pair of unidentified climbers called for assistance Thursday in descending from the 10,670-foot level on the Liberty Ridge route, saying they were unhurt but "in over their heads," Gauthier said.
One was 48 and the other 44, and one was from Fort McMurray, Alberta, and the other from New Hampshire, Gauthier said.
Because of the other search, rangers did not plan to send a rescue team to the pair, who have food and fuel, unless their condition worsened, Gauthier said.
Park officials say more than 11,000 people try to climb Mount Rainier annually, including about 200 via Liberty Ridge.
Jon Cahill, 40, of Auburn, died June 3 after falling 200 feet on Liberty Ridge. Peter Cooley, 39, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, died May 17, two days after he tumbled down a steep icy slope of the ridge and hit his head on a rock spur.
An average of three people a year have died in summit attempts since 1990, when record keeping began. Casady's death would be the 92nd.