CLIMBERS rescued from Mount Rainier

Thursday, May 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARADISE, Wash. (AP) _ Four stranded climbers and five rescue rangers were plucked from Mount Rainier by a high-altitude helicopter two days after the hikers were stranded by an avalanche.

The mountaineers and rangers walked off the Army Reserve Chinook helicopter Wednesday evening and were taken to a ranger station for debriefing. All were in good condition, park officials said.

For more than a day, blowing snow and poor visibility had prevented the helicopter from landing on the 14,122-foot Liberty Cap to rescue the group.

Hustled into waiting cars at the landing site, the climbers walked without aid but appeared drawn and pale. One who did not identify himself said he was ``doing a lot better now.''

Park officials identified the hikers as Dylan Scoville-Simonds, James Fishburn, Alton Willoughby and Mike Schiller, all believed to be from the Seattle area.

All were experienced mountaineers. Scoville-Simonds, 24, had been to the top twice before, officials said.

The climbers began their ascent Friday and radioed for help Monday after an avalanche swept away much of their gear. They were on the Liberty Ridge route up the north flank of the mountain, a more challenging approach to the 14,411-foot summit than most climbers follow.

The group was well prepared and did the right thing by calling for aid and staying in one spot after the avalanche, park Superintendent Jon Jarvis said.

``Any time you take on a technical climb here on Mount Rainier, you'd better be prepared to save yourself,'' Jarvis said.

On Tuesday, a helicopter lowered the Mount Rainier National Park Service rangers, along with extra gear and supplies, onto Liberty Cap. The rangers led the stranded climbers to about the 13,500-foot level before clouds and high wind produced whiteout conditions Tuesday, preventing a rescue.

The nine were airlifted from the 13,900-foot level Wednesday.

``When they go on a rescue, they generally always go prepared,'' park spokeswoman Maria Gillett said. ``They go knowing they could be up there for a while.''