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Search for 4 Rainier hikers 'to scale down'

Elaine Thompson / AP

Mount Rainer, seen at dawn on Jan. 2, is only 50 miles south of Seattle and draws thousands of hikers each year, even in winter.

The search for four climbers and campers missing for more than a week in Washington's Mount Rainier National Park was scaled back Tuesday after three aircraft and ground teams found no sign of them Monday despite excellent search conditions, the National Park Service said.

No search will take place Tuesday due to stormy weather, the agency said in a statement Monday night, and "the park will begin to scale down the operation."

Two helicopters and an airplane with a heat-sensing infrared camera joined some 40 people on seven ground teams on Monday, the first day conditions were favorable for a large search.

Rangers believe both parties were equipped for bad weather but worry they're running out of supplies.

The climbers -- Sork Yang, 52, of Springfield, Ore., and Seol Hee Jim, 52, of South Korea -- had planned to reach Rainier's 14,411-foot summit and return on Jan. 16.

The campers -- Mark Vucich, 37, of San Diego, Calif., and Michelle Trojanowski, 30, of Atlanta, Ga. -- planned to winter camp on the Muir Snowfield, elevation 10,000 feet, and then hike out on Jan. 15.

Over the last week, search crews had been pushed back by gusts up to 90 mph, white-out conditions, ice-crusted snow, avalanche dangers and snow depths of between 10 to 15 feet, as well as snow drifts up to 50 feet deep.

About 10,000 people attempt to summit the massive volcano each year, but most do so in the summer. Only a few hundred climb in the winter months.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Snowshoers head out on a trek at the Paradise area of Mount Raininer National Park on Jan. 7.

A 66-year-old snowshoer was found alive last week after spending two days in blizzard conditions.

Rainier also saw the fatal shooting of a park ranger on New Year's Day by a former Army soldier who later froze to death as he was hunted in the park.

STORY: Rainier has its rewards, and risks

"It's been a rough month for Mount Rainier," said Mike Gauthier, who was a climbing ranger on Rainier for two decades. "Any of these are big events. To have one immediately fall into the next one. It's not even the third week of January. It's a lot of stress on the staff."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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