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100-mph gusts stop search for overdue Rainier climbers, hikers


Mount Rainier saw white-out conditions on Wednesday.

A team of skilled skiers and climbers was being prepared to search for two campers and two climbers overdue from their trips up Mount Rainier during a major winter storm, the national park said Wednesday.

The team, along with a helicopter crew, was having to wait for the storm hitting the Northwest to ease up. Two searchers had to turn back Tuesday due to 100-mph gusts.

"A search team of two traveled the route above Paradise to Panorama Point Tuesday afternoon to assess conditions in the area and look for signs of two overdue parties," the park said in a statement. "Travel was extremely difficult with the team sinking two, three feet into the snow with each step. Visibility was limited, winds were gusting up to 100 mph, and their tracks filled in behind them as they negotiated the deep snow." 

"Although both parties are equipped for winter camping there is concern with the delay in getting searchers into the field due to the risk associated with difficult travel conditions, severe weather, and extreme avalanche conditions." it added. "Avalanche conditions have gone from high to extreme overnight."

The campers, who were due out on Sunday after a weekend at the Muir Snowfield, were identified as Mark Vucich of San Diego, Calif., and Michelle Trojanowski of Atlanta, Ga.

The climbers, who were due back Monday from a summit attempt, were not identified.

Late Monday, a lost snowshoer who spent two nights on Rainier was found by a search team.

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