Six Climbers Presumed Dead on Mount Rainier

Officials confirmed Sunday that six climbers were killed in a fall on Mount Rainier in Washington over the weekend. The climbers had been scaling the steep northern side of the mountain when they plunged 3,300 feet. Although no bodies have been recovered, all six are presumed dead. It was the worst accident the mountain has seen in over 30 years.

The climbing party, which consisted of four recreational climbers and two guides from Alpine Ascents International, were reported missing after they failed to return on Friday as planned. They had last been heard from Wednesday, when they were getting ready to make camp for the night. "This mountain and Carbon Glacier is very dynamic, with continuous rockfall and ice fall," said a park spokeswoman. "No one is immune to that, no matter how skilled you are."

Although some of the group's tents, clothes, and avalanche were recovered from a debris field on Saturday, no bodies were found. They may never be: in a statement, the Park Service said that "there is no certainty that recovery is possible" due to the hazardous conditions of the area. The search is currently being conducted by air, and there are no current plans to send on-the-ground searchers to recover the bodies. Instead, aircraft will periodically fly over the area in hopes of spotting something as the snow melts.

"Obviously this is a tragedy," Alpine Ascents International founder Todd Burleson said on Saturday. "We are very sad for the families and the loss of our guys. Everybody mourns this." The company also lost five sherpas on Mount Everest this spring in an accident that took 16 lives and may be that mountain's deadliest accident ever. Mount Rainier's own deadliest accident happened in 1981, when 11 people were buried under falling chunks of ice.