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Ptarmigan Ridge Rescue 2-6-05

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FYI, Recent rescue. Note descent route and conditions, BURLY! I'll try to post an image of the upper Nisqually Basin taken yesterday after the SAR.


Off-duty Rainier guides rescued

CRAIG HILL; The News Tribune

Last updated: February 8th, 2005 06:44 AM


Two climbers were rescued from the upper slopes of Mount Rainier on Monday after nasty weather turned a planned two-day climb of the 14,411-foot mountain into a six-day ordeal.


Chris Bamer, 25, is being treated for frostbite on 18 of his fingers and toes at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center after being plucked from the mountain by an Oregon National Guard helicopter Monday morning.


His partner, Rob Montague, 28, of Olympia, was not injured and hiked off the mountain with rescuers Monday afternoon.


Bamer will spend two more days at Harborview while doctors determine if any of his digits must be amputated.


“In his own words, he has serious problems with 18 (fingers and toes), particularly his left hand,” said Mike Gauthier, Mount Rainier National Park’s lead climbing ranger. “But he doesn’t think he’s going to lose any of them.”


Rescuers reported that the tips of some of Bamer’s fingers and toes turned black.


The outcome could have been much worse for both men, Gauthier said.


“These guys had a full-on epic,” Gauthier said. “They are fortunate to be alive.”


Bamer and Montague are both first-year climbing guides for Ashford-based Rainier Mountaineering Inc. and were making an off-duty ascent.


“They do not have the experience of our older climbers,” said Alex Van Steen, one of RMI’s most experienced guides. “But they are both great climbers.”


Gauthier said both men have “a great deal of mountain fortitude,” which is what got them in trouble before it saved their lives.


Bamer and Montague started climbing the difficult Ptarmigan Ridge route Feb. 1, planning to finish their trip in two days.


Ptarmigan Ridge is a steep route on the mountain’s northwest slopes that should only be attempted by experienced climbers. It’s a harder climb than the Liberty Ridge route where four climbers died this summer, Gauthier said.


“And it’s rarely done in the winter,” Gauthier said.


Fewer than 200 of the 10,000 people who climb Rainier each year attempt the summit via any route in the winter.


The climbers’ ascent was delayed by hard, icy slopes that required them to belay each other on more than 20 steep pitches.


The men told Gauthier on Monday night that they regretted not turning back when they realized the climb was going to be considerably more demanding than they expected.


When they did not return home by Friday, they were reported missing. Bamer made radio contact with the National Park Service Saturday and said they were still on route, but that he was suffering from frostbite.


They reached the summit Saturday, but were unable to descend because of whiteout conditions. They were forced to camp on the summit between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest.


They attempted to descend via the Gibraltar Ledges with radio guidance from Gauthier on Sunday morning, but bad weather limited visibility and knocked them off course.


“Conditions were so bad they couldn’t see anything,” Gauthier said. “It was done by Braille, so to speak.”


At one point, Montague had to leap off a small cliff. He landed and was buried up to his head in snow.

During a post-rescue helicopter flight, Gauthier found the men’s tracks and discovered they had descended Nisqually Cleaver, a much more difficult route than the Gibraltar Ledges.


The route took them into dangerous avalanche territory.


“They heard avalanches around them, and avalanches covered some of their tracks,” Gauthier said.


Bamer and Montague spent Sunday trudging through chest-deep snow before encountering the rescue party of climbing ranger Stoney Richards, former rangers Chad and Lara Kellogg and RMI guides John Lucia and Paul Maier.


“There was a unique angle of stress because climbing rangers and guides all know each other to some degree,” Gauthier said. “We weren’t going after unnamed climbers.”


The climbers and rescuers spent Sunday night at Camp Muir at 10,188 feet on the southeast slope of the mountain.


“Less-experienced climbers might not have survived,” Gauthier said. “They were very fortunate.”


Craig Hill: 253-597-8497

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At one point, Montague had to leap off a small cliff. He landed and was buried up to his head in snow.

shocked.gif What a story. Glad to hear they made it off, sounds like they were pretty lucky.

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it must be fun running a search op when the search area is "somewhere on rainier"

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Here is an image taken during the SAR. Note descent tracks from center of image, to lower right.


I'm having a hard time inserting the image in this post, as the file is too big and I don't have a photo program to downsize... Perhaps someone can help?



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i hope he keeps all his fingers and toes.

another remind that Rainier is not to be taken lightly even if you are a mountain guide.


On a less sympathetic note, if THEY thought they should have turned back, then they SHOULD have turned back.

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