MISSOULA, Mont. - Three Missoula climbers are safe after falling hundreds of feet down an ice cliff on Mount Rainier.
NBC Montana talked with one climber, 23-year-old Tim Smith who is in a Missoula area Hospital. Smith told us he, his brother Cory and a third climber, Sydney Seyfert, are lucky to be alive.
The three were working their way up the summit on May 17 when Cory and Seyfert tumbled off the cliff, followed by an avalanche.
A helicopter and park rangers assisted in a rescue May 19.
The following is a press release from Mount Rainier Park officials:
On the afternoon of Saturday, May 18, a party of three climbers was ascending Liberty Ridge near the Mount Rainier summit when a small avalanche swept away the lead climber and fall protection failed.
Self-arrest efforts by the group's third member halted the descent of the entire group.
Despite the lead climber's sustaining an angulated left lower leg fracture, the three climbers were able to reach the top of Liberty Cap.
On the morning of May 19, they contacted a climbing guide-led party on the summit. Members of that group reported the incident to park dispatch via radio, assisted two of the injured climbers down to Camp Muir, and remained on-site at Liberty Cap with the climber suffering the leg fracture.
He was extricated via an aviation-based rescue involving park mountaineering rangers and a Chinook helicopter from the U.S. Army Reserve 214th General Services Aviation Battalion and then air transported to Madigan Military Hospital at Joint Base Lewis McChord.
A simultaneous ground-based rescue of the two other members of the party was also necessary. This portion of the operation involved four Mount Rainier rangers sledding one of the patients with significant frostbite injuries down from Camp Muir to the Paradise parking area in an Ajkia litter. This patient was then transported by National Park Service ambulance from Paradise, transferred outside the park to a mutual aid Pierce County ambulance, and ultimately taken to Harbor View Hospital in Seattle.
The third member of the party, who had only minor exposure-related complaints, was ambulatory and successfully walked out with the ground litter team and ultimately was released against medical advice.
The incident was managed under a Type 4 ICS structure.