On Thursday, Mount Rainier National Park rangers recovered a 27-year-old Seattle man’s body who died while hiking through white-out conditions the day before.
Alex Fitzgerald was from Michigan, but he lived in Seattle, WA. Fitzgerald spent Tuesday tent camping at Camp Muir with a hiking partner — a 19-year-old woman visiting Seattle from Virginia. The park said the pair hiked up to Camp Muir following a trail from Paradise to Pebble Creek, and then across the Muir Snowfield.
The fateful hike would take a turn for the worst as poor weather conditions took over the mountain.
Timeline of the Mount Rainier Hikers Emergency Exit
On Wednesday around 8 a.m., the pair made their way back down the mountain, according to the park’s statement. The hikers got lost in high winds, heavy rain, and white-out conditions at around 9,300 feet elevation.
The Virginia woman called 911 for help around two hours later. The park’s statement said she got ahold of park rangers who worked with her to try to pinpoint the pair’s location on the mountain.
“As far as we knew at that point, they weren’t in trouble other than being cold and a little lost,” said park spokesperson Kevin Bacher.
However, as the two continued their descent, Fitzgerald became “increasingly disoriented” and the woman lost cell phone reception. Fitzgerald became unresponsive, and the woman unsuccessfully tried to move him to safety. Instead, she left to find help, according to the statement.
As she continued down the mountain, she found another pair of hikers around 3:50 p.m. A quick-response team rescued her at the top of the Skyline Trail, which is at about 7,200 feet elevation.
About an hour later, the team found Fitzgerald on the Muir Snowfield. They determined he was dead on arrival. Officials did not remove Fitzgerald from the mountain immediately.
Bacher said that conditions were “extremely bad” Wednesday afternoon, with heavy precipitation, 100 mph winds and almost zero visibility. Therefore park rangers returned to the area Thursday to recover Fitzgerald’s body.
The Camp Muir trail frequently sees weather “deteriorate rapidly and dramatically,” because of high elevations and an exposed location.
“It’s a really good reminder to be careful and plan ahead [and] to take with you the things you would need to survive if conditions change,” Bacher said. “The higher up on the mountain you go, the more often [a change in weather] could happen and the more deadly it is when it does.”
[H/T Seattle Times]