Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park and Mountain Rescue volunteers rescued a hiker in distress Sept. 23 on the Muir Snowfield in white-out snow conditions. Her companion was found deceased and was recovered from the mountain Sept. 24.
On Sept. 23, rangers were forwarded a 911 cell phone call from a woman visiting from Virginia who reported that she and her hiking partner, Alex Fitzgerald, 27, of Seattle and Michigan, were lost in high winds, heavy rain and white-out conditions at about 9,300 feet elevation after spending the night in a tent at Camp Muir, according to a press release from Mount Rainier National Park. Park rangers monitored their descent, while a quick-response team was dispatched to assist them.
That afternoon, the team intercepted the woman at the top of the Skyline Trail. According to the release, she reported that Fitzgerald had become increasingly disoriented and, then, unresponsive. She said that after trying unsuccessfully to move Fitzgerald or to get a cell phone signal, she left to find help. Fitzgerald was located at 4:42 p.m. at about 7,700 feet on the Muir Snowfield and was determined to be deceased.
Sept. 24, rangers returned to the scene, assisted by Olympic, Tacoma, Central Washington, Seattle and Everett Mountain Rescue volunteers. Fitzgerald’s body was brought back to the trailhead and turned over to the Pierce County Medical Examiner. In all, 12 National Park Service rangers and 13 Mountain Rescue volunteers were involved in the rescue and recovery.
According to the release, the route to Camp Muir follows a trail from Paradise, elevation 5,400 feet, to Pebble Creek, and then across the Muir Snowfield the rest of the way to the high camp at 10,180 feet. Its high elevation and exposed location mean that weather can deteriorate rapidly. Hikers are encouraged to monitor weather forecasts and bring gear and supplies suitable for any conditions. All overnight travel in the park requires a backcountry permit reserved online at least a week in advance. Visit the park’s website, www.nps.gov/mora, for more information about hiking safety in Mount Rainier National Park.
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